It's elusive, endemic and endangered and is the only duck in the world that whistles not quacks.

The whio duck lives right in our backyard deep in the Ruahine Ranges.

It's a national icon that is on our $10 note.

But it's not money that's saving these ducks; it's the blood and sweat from volunteers as they trap stoats, rats and weasels throughout the Ruahine Ranges. These are the biggest threat to the whio.


Ruahine Whio Protectors Trust chairwoman Janet Wilson has dedicated the last 10 years to the whio as she leads the trust to bring the duck back from the brink of extinction.

Janet took a party deep into the Ororua River northeast of Apiti, Manawatu, on a mission to reset traps and find the whio in its natural habitat. Janet said there's less than 3000 whio in the country and it's far more endangered than the kiwi.

"It's specially adapted to live in these rivers. It has a rubbery bill that can get under rocks and find the invertebrates ... they're fiercely territorial and cover up to 1.5km of river."

Although the whio in the Ruahine Ranges spends the majority of its time living on the fast flowing and pristine headwaters, to reproduce they have to lay eggs on the river banks where predators await.

Janet says stoats, rats and weasels can't resist the smell and taste of them and there's video footage of these rodents attacking the nest and sometimes killing the mother.

Janet is calling for competent and capable volunteers who would like to join their fight against the whio predators.

"You've got to be committed and strong enough to handle the sometimes harsh elements of the Ruahine Ranges," she warns.

Rangiwahia volunteers Steve and Mary Bielski have been on the attack against whio enemies.

They reset a loop of traps that covers almost 15km that starts at the Rangiwahia Hut carpark.

Steve says it's a wonderful experience and rewarding to give the ducks a chance, but the trapping is also giving other birds in the Ruahine a chance to bounce back.

Contact the Ruahine Whio Protectors or find them on Facebook
See video Made with funding by NZ on Air