A motorcycle racing accident made Janet Wilson decide to keep her two feet on the ground.
For more than a decade, she has tramped miles in the rugged Ruahine Range to ensure the survival of the whio (blue duck) that only lives in New Zealand's back country. Earlier this year, her efforts with the Ruahine Whio Protection Trust were rewarded with a Queen's Service Medal for services to wildlife conservation.
The high country of Aotearoa is home to fewer than 3000 whio, so this bird is rarer than the kiwi. Especially adapted to live in fast-flowing rivers, the whio is only found in the cleanest environments, so poor water quality and erosion have played a role in their decline.
The main threat to this iconic bird, which features on our $10 note, comes from predators such as stoats, weasels, rats and possums.
Wilson was instrumental in setting up the Ruahine Whio Protection Trust, which works to protect whio and their habitat in the Ruahine Range by carrying out predator control. The trust has about 30 volunteers who maintain 2500 traps to protect the whio from predators and save it from extinction.
Wilson has chaired the trust since its establishment and she co-ordinates the volunteers, arranges bait and equipment, organises the re-baiting of traps and raises funds for the project. She praises the commitment of her band of volunteers who put in many hours of work in their spare time to clear and re-bait traps in the challenging terrain of New Zealand's back country.
The unrelenting dedication of these volunteers has been rewarded by an increase in Ruahine whio numbers so they are now a population of national significance, though Wilson stresses there is an ongoing need for protection if their numbers are not going to fall.
Her volunteers range from a 10-year-old girl who comes along with her mum, to a very fit 80-year-old. "Whether it's out in the field re-baiting and emptying traps, or it's from home helping to organise, get in touch and we'll find something for you to do."
Although the Department of Conservation does a lot of trapping work, community groups carry the load in many parts of New Zealand. The Ruahine group is no exception; if it wasn't for the dedication of volunteers, the whio - the only duck in the world to whistle rather than quack - would have become extinct.
If you'd like to help protect the whio or buy the trust's 2022 calendar, phone Janet Wilson on 027 341 8945 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Environment Network Manawatū is a hub for about 60 enviro groups, working in areas ranging from sustainable living to wildlife conservation. Find them on Facebook or visit enm.org.nz.