Wellington children’s book author and zookeeper Danni Rae highlights the hazards of plastic pollution on the little strawberry hermit crab in her second picture book called Harry the Hermit Crab. The brilliantly illustrated book is published by Little Love, an imprint of Mary Egan Publishing, and releases on 7 November.
Danni chose hermit crabs for this story because they are kind of an underdog creature of seashores in New Zealand and around the Asia-Pacific region.
“The impact of plastic pollution on this unique animal is not widely known,” Danni explains. “Hermit crabs make their homes in empty shells. When they outgrow a shell, they must find a new one. If they can’t find a suitable shell, they may try to set up house in other objects instead, like discarded plastic bottles from which they are unable to escape. In an unfortunate chain of events, hermit crabs that perish release a special odour detected by other crabs which may then climb into the bottle in search of the shell of the dead crab and then become stuck themselves.”
As with her very well received first book, Kara the Kākāpo published by Little Love last year, Danni wrote Harry the Hermit Crab to share her passion for conservation with the youngest of readers.
“There is incredible work being done to address the worldwide problems of plastics in our oceans. By talking about the impact of plastic on a humble creature such as a hermit crab, young children soon understand the impact of discarded plastics in the natural environment.”
While Danni’s own zookeeping role at Wellington Zoo is more about primates and carnivores, she’s passionate about raising the awareness of conservation for all creatures.
“Conservation requires optimism, determination and quite a lot of creative thinking and, like Kara the Kākāpo, this story introduces children to these concepts through the experiences of a hermit crab, a creature that some children will know from home or other aquariums. Hopefully it’s the first step in creating an awareness of the natural world around them and motivation to protect it.”
A qualified scuba diver, Danni has taken the marine medics course run by Project Jonah and loves to spot the amazing array of wildlife right on her doorstep in Wellington Harbour.
“If, by sharing this gentle and fun story, we can encourage children to think about not creating pollution in the first place, we can work together to create a cleaner future. I can see this book being useful for marine education centres and schools whose students get involved in local beach clean-ups.”
About the author: Danni Rae is a Wellington based zookeeper and conservationist with a passion for connecting children with animals and the environment. She has worked in Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar and wants to use her experience to inspire conservation connections through her engaging and educational animal adventure stories. When she isn’t working, Danni can be found writing, reading, hiking and traveling!
About the illustrator: Evan Heasman (also known by the artist name Soju Shots) is an illustrator who takes great inspiration from nature and fairytales. He uses a combination of pen, watercolour, photography and digital mediums to create his characters and the magical worlds they come from. He works between his home in beautiful Waipu and his little studio in Whangarei.