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Father and son’s foundation for the future of our flora and fauna

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

The Endangered Species Foundation has its genesis in an idea from father and son, Neil and Mike Thorsen. Established through the recognition that Aotearoa New Zealand is losing its native species at an alarming rate, the duo established the Foundation on 13 March 2013, with the aim of creating an organisation that could make a difference for our endangered flora and fauna.

“We wanted to do something that was totally different and that would work in partnership with others, including DOC, WWF and a whole range of people,” says Neil. “Our key point of difference was to provide continuous funding for projects once they were underway”.

When it was formed, this innovative foundation was based around establishing an endowment fund that could be used to give grants to conservation projects for endangered species. Endorsements of support were received from Jane Goodall and Lou Sanson.

“I applaud the attention that [the Endangered Species Foundation] give to all species - not just the large charismatic birds and mammals, but also the less well-known species of invertebrates, fungi, lichens, lizards, plants, amphibians, and even seaweeds. I wish them, and the species they support, all the success they deserve in this innovative project.” - Dame Jane Goodall

"Our unique native species and precious wild places are taonga that we protect today to hand onto our children and grandchildren... By supporting ESFNZ, you can help play your part in conserving our nature for future New Zealanders and protecting what makes our country truly special."- Lou Sanson, Director General, Department of Conservation

Mike and Neil have put an enormous amount of time into establishing the foundation, and connecting with key people who can help raise the profile and funds needed to create much needed change.

A key success for Neil includes collaborating with a number of key parties to enhance the future of the endangered Maui Dolphin.

“One of my proudest achievements and biggest thrills has been looking at the situation of the Maui Dolphin and ensuring that the fishers were involved with the solutions,” says Neil. “The Endangered Species Foundation collaborated with WWF, Sandford, experts and marine biologists, in order to progress the threat management plan”.

Another major achievement was working to develop the $1 million Pamela and Donald Paterson Conservation Trust.

“This was a really wonderful project and a great way to get funding to endangered species early on,” says Neil.

The Paterson fund has since given grants towards:

  • translocating the Chesterfield skink after most of its habitat being damaged by a cyclone

  • restoration of Te Kokapou (Red Rocks) – a coastal reserve on the south side of Wellington, which is home to a fur seal colony

  • funding a Colmar Brunton research poll into the public’s attitude to saving endangered species, with emphasis on the Hectors and Maui dolphins

  • funding Maui dolphin investigatory work

  • supporting Squawk Squad to teach 4,400 tamariki about Aotearoa’s most endangered species.

Looking to the future, Neil hopes that the Foundation will be able to make a substantive difference to the loss of New Zealand’s endemic species.

“I would hope in my lifetime that we start to see a significant reduction in the over 7500 species that are currently endangered, particularly the top 40,” says Neil.

Neil has recently been elected as Vice Patron for the Endangered Species Foundation and will be engaging with key contacts to keep them informed and motivated to continue the work for our endangered species.

“I feel exceptionally honoured that I have been elected as Vice Patron and I really do believe that I have plenty more to give,” says Neil. “It’s something that I am really chuffed about because we have an amazing team and trustees. The Foundation is a wonderful concept and there is an incredible need. I look forward to contributing as we move forward with the new strategy.”

The Endangered Species Foundation is incredibly grateful to the work Neil and Mike have put in over years to establishing the foundation.

“I thank Neil for his valuable insights, as well as the huge amount of time and energy he has put into building connections with so many valuable contacts,” says Stu. “We look forward to working with him further as we move ahead to deliver our strategic priorities.”

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