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Feeling unwell? Here’s a national park prescription

Glacier National Park in British Columbia, by Ken Lund, Creative Commons

A wrap of the biggest stories and best writing about the outdoors from New Zealand and around the world.

Imagine heading to one of our beautiful national parks knowing you were merely obeying doctor’s orders. That’s what’s happening in British Columbia in Canada. There, doctors are now allowed to prescribe national park passes to patients in recognition that time spent in nature is good for your health.

“This is all about breaking down those barriers to access to nature,” says Dr Melissa Lem, director of PaRx, the country’s national nature prescription programme. “There’s this huge body of research showing that nature time can improve all kinds of different physical and mental health conditions, from diabetes and heart disease to ADHD and depression.”

Only doctors registered with PaRx can dish out a national park prescription. The scheme was first launched in the state in November 2020 and will be nationwide by the end of this year. Read more here

Watch amazing footage of a crafty kea stealing a Go Pro

Kea are known for their mischievous behaviour, but one on the Kepler Track was determined to be a TV star. It stole a GoPro from the unsuspecting Dunedin-based Verheul family after they’d finished their first day of the Fiordland Great Walk.

The camera was recording and captured the moment the bird grabbed it and flew off with it. The machine survived and was still filming when the family found it again.

Alex Verheul told Seven Sharp that they located the device by following the sounds of the birds: “We just followed the sound down there, we could see them hanging out in a tree – they’d obviously heard us coming and abandoned the GoPro – and my son decided to go check the rocks where it looked like a good place for a bird to land, and there it was still sitting there, still filming.” Watch the footage on Seven Sharp. 

DOC subantarctic projects knocked on the head

Research on New Zealand sea lions has had to be scrapped, as Covid and DOC’s tight budget mean the department has had to scale back its summer science programme for the third year in succession.

“Some of DOC’s proposed subantarctic field season hasn’t gone ahead in the 2021-22 research season as a result of budget reprioritisation,” admits the organisation’s aquatic director Elizabeth Heeg.

The cut backs come as Greenpeace hands over a petition of 60,000 signatures urging the government to take a stronger position when it comes to protecting New Zealand’s, and the world’s oceans. Stuff has more on this story. 

Fancy a 400km tramp through Bhutan?

An epic Himalayan trail has just reopened after a 60-year absence. It used to be the only way to traverse the country, but road development saw an end to it in the 1960s.

In March, the Trans Bhutan Trail is set to reopen, offering a challenging, stunning, historic and spiritual month-long journey.

Those taking it on will get to explore dense forests, mountain ridges and ancient fortresses, much as messengers would have done in medieval times.

Everest’s highest glacier has “crossed a threshold”

Researchers believe the South Col glacier has suffered from years of temperature increases and is now on its way out.

It’s currently thinning at 80 times the rate it formed and scientists led by the University of Maine say it’s lost 54 metres of thickness in the past 25 years.

The glacier is almost 8000m high and is thought to now be merely a relic from a colder time. The melting of glaciers in the region could also make scaling the world’s highest summits more difficult in future.