Doc Wakatipu biodiversity rangers Danielle Pearson (left) and Sandra Barnaba say they enjoy their work protecting native birdlife. Photo by Susie Geh.
For Danielle Pearson, Department of Conservation Wakatipu
biodiversity services ranger, Mt Aspiring National Park ''is
amazing and mind-blowing, I just don't know how to sum it
However, Ms Pearson and fellow biodiversity ranger Sandra
Barnaba do know how to protect the precious biodiversity of
the Routeburn and Dart Valleys.
Over the past two years they have been responsible for
checking more than 750 predator traps which run along more
than 150km of new trap control lines crisscrossing the
It was essential to have so many traps to catch the stoats
and rats which were so devastating for the native birdlife,
Every trap needs to be checked and reset regularly. This
means walking the full length of the trap lines at least once
Eggs are used as bait so the rangers carry backpacks full of
eggs - they do not want to walk nearly 20km only to break the
eggs at the end.
Their work is funded via Air New Zealand's sponsorship of the
Routeburn Track, part of the company's Great Walks
The aim of the funding is to bring back some of New Zealand's
rarest birds to the Great Walks.
The work by Ms Pearson and Ms Barnaba is the first step
towards this goal.
The 150km of new trap lines are proving successful and in the
first year 110 stoats and 27 rats were caught in the
Routeburn area alone.
Through their work, the women get to explore valleys which
most people will never see and are often lucky enough to meet
the wildlife they are working to protect.
''We visit places where it is truly quiet, so we get to see
birds like the whio [blue duck] hanging out in the rivers,''
Ms Barnaba said.
''There are also the days where you get to see a rainbow
reaching from one waterfall to the next.''
However, the job is not all sunshine and birdsong - there are
some long hard days in the field.
The trap lines the rangers patrol vary in length from 4km to
24km, but are rarely flat, and cleaning up rotten stoat
remains from the traps is not too much fun.
''You might be huffing and puffing along then next minute a
mohua [yellowhead] lands next to you. You get to see it doing
its thing and you know that the hard work is worth it,'' Ms
The rangers said they were passionate about the area they
were working to protect.
When asked why they did it, Ms Pearson simply said: ''Because
I love it.''
Ms Barnaba said conservation ''doesn't just happen - it's
important we don't take our species for granted''.