Wikwemikong’s species at risk centre attracting a lot of attention

A dream is coming through for the Wikwemikong elders who had a vision for an outdoor learning environment in their community.

According to the Species at Risk Coordinator, Theodore Flamand, it’s a vision he’s been working on for the past 18 years.

Wikwemikong Unceded Territory is an Ojibway community, located on the northeastern side of Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario.

Flamand said originally, the program started out as a research project, to see what was on the land and to teach the younger generations.

“If you go to a school and say ‘I’m here to teach you about species at risk,’ it doesn’t work,” he said. “You may have their train of thought for 15 minutes, so that’s what the elders wanted, was a setting like this, where we could teach them about all that plants that are here as well as species at risk.

“We found in the last two years that it works, they’re keen on species at risk now.”

It’s grown so much, that a small teaching lodge is now being built on the marsh to educate the children and youth.

Flamand said they’ve documented 14 species at risk, including wolves, snakes and turtles.

“All the turtles are listed which is the Blandings, Painted, Map and the Snapper,” he said.

He said protected areas like this are more important now than ever, and that’s why they’re hoping to share their knowledge with outside communities.

That’s why a small group of visitors came to the marsh from Guelph this week including Justine Richardson, director of the Arboretum at the University of Guelph.

She said it’s such a biodiverse space with many species that can only be found here.

“We caught a glimpse of a rattler, it was too shy,” she said. “Of course, as an Arboretum, we’re especially excited about plants and we saw a Gattinger’s Agalinis, which is an endangered species with a beautiful little pink flower that’s only found here, and we saw a lot of it yesterday in the spot where we went with Theodore at an area where he is doing a survey for Massasauga rattlers.

According to Flamand when the project is complete, there will be about 15 acres of protected areas on the reserve and a teaching area at the marsh.

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