Lonely Conservationists

Gareth (My conservation journey so far)

Written by Gareth Davies

Hi, I’m Gareth and originally from Gloucester, a semi-rural part of the southwest of the UK, now living and working in New Zealand. I have been interested in nature and also photography from a young age, including my first ever adoption of a duck called Parker (I’m a huge Thunderbirds fan) from a nearby wildlife trust. I used to borrow my grandparent’s Kodak 126 camera to record some of my early travels around the UK as a child and have always had an avid interest in both photography and wildlife ever since.

When I left school, I joined the Royal Air Force as a darkroom tech, later on becoming a photographer, and much later being posted back to the training school where my career started to become a photography instructor. Always keen on marine conservation, I had even considered it as a post-high school career. Luckily during my time travelling with the military, I was fortunate to be able to gain extensive scuba diving qualifications, which led to many adventures overseas, including assistance to the Coral Cay Conservation team in Belize.

Whilst living back in Norfolk on the east side of the UK for a time, a team looking after a stranded porpoise put out a call for divers with drysuits to monitor an injured porpoise “Brenda” in an inflatable pool. Unfortunately, she did not get better and died a few days later, but I have never been able to sit by when any animals are in need of assistance.

During a three year stint of living and working in Cyprus, I was saddened to see the state of the ocean due to pollution and overfishing. I helped to enhance a marine reserve at our local dive club to introduce and educate visitors about the variety of marine life that was able to live there. I also had the privilege of helping a team of volunteer marine biology students who came to the beaches each year to help excavate turtle nests, ensuring the maximum number of hatchlings survived the first part of their life journey.

After nearly 23 years in the RAF, I was offered a position in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as their photography instructor. As the coastline and surrounding landscapes are full of natural wonders, we jumped at the chance to move as a family with young children. Following several years working in the RNZAF in the Central North Island, I moved jobs once more, to where I still work now, as a training coordinator for the NZ Police, which ideally allows me to live within a short walking distance to the beach.

Now I can be found wandering the Kapiti beaches at least four or five times each week after work or at weekends, locations depending on the weather, tide, and light. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t let the ‘wrong’ weather or time of day stop me from venturing out…

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”― Alfred Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk.

 I have also been on a very challenging well-being journey over the past few years and after doing some research and finding out how other people use the natural world to help them, I have started to use my time in and around nature to help myself and also others that I share the images with. I now make time for myself at frequent opportunities, along with time for nature and even contribute every trip or walk, by picking up trash to try and help keep beaches and forest tracks clean. I do have to remember to keep my passion “in check” when seeing people leaving trash or generally disrespecting their surroundings. On IG I have linked with several groups that also do this regularly, which does make me feel a whole lot better because I am not on my own. It is quite disheartening when you feel that you are constantly in the minority of people who care about nature and their local surroundings, let alone the rest of the planet.

I have adopted the name of “Red Beanie” online, which comes from my childhood hero Jacques Cousteau, who could always be seen wearing a red beanie whilst on his adventures. I took to wearing one myself whilst diving, particularly in the wintertime, as I am now very “follicly challenged” – due to my many years of wearing hats!

I actively support and look to find commonality with many causes, particularly marine conservation that I have always had a passion for.  I also am a huge supporter of nature and biodiversity on land and have made sure most of our garden is very pollinator-friendly. I feed birds over winter, along with hosting two Weta motels for tree wetas. Not as grand as they sound, just wooden boxes with holes in, mounted on tree trunks, but they seem quite happy! I have a yearly pass to and am also a very unofficial photographer for the local nature reserve, Nga Manu on the Kapiti coast, which is run mainly by volunteers.

I am quite active on Instagram, both posting images of local nature and supporting conservation causes and have recently been selected by Predator Free NZ to receive a Bird song pack that I will be promoting in the near future. The word conservationist has been given a bad rap over recent decades and almost said with disdain in some circles, but thanks to some very strong international and national personalities, the tag is becoming normalised and linked to everyone’s survival. I am very heartened to see the younger generations to be passionately advocating for all of nature. Each and everyone of you, thank you for the awesome conservation work you do, kia kaha (stay strong).

For more of Gareth, check out @redbeanie_photography on Instagram

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