When the folks at What Now let us know who they’d picked as the winner of the ‘Whio in Fiordland—Ranger for a Week’ competition, we were not expecting the likes of Charlotte Thomas… conservation wonder kid.
Children had to correctly answer three questions about whio and state why they wanted to be a ranger for a week. Out of 1026 entries, Charlotte’s entry was the winner by a long shot.
“I’m ten years old and you have no idea how much of a dream come true it would be, to be a Ranger for a week! I’m so excited just at the thought!” wrote Charlotte.
“Ever since I can remember, I have loved nature and I know how important it is to protect our native animals and their habitats….When I was nine I wrote and illustrated a book about a New Zealand falcon (karearea) that flew into a fence and damaged its wing.
“I spend as much of my spare time as possible outside learning about nature. I am a member of the Environmental Council at my school, I volunteer planting trees at our local regional park, I am a member of the Kiwi Conservation Club and I read. I read about nature and conservation a lot!”
So when the 15th October finally rolled round, Charlotte and her dad Dave flew from Auckland to Queenstown and made their way to Te Anau.
Day 1 of the prize was a helicopter ride with ranger Max and newly trained whio dog Oska to the Ettrick Burn in the Murchison mountains. Charlotte got to see whio up close and personal, including a pair in their home on the river.
You may remember that the Milford Road was closed because of a slip during this time. Thankfully, Real Journeys who also supported the prize, were kind enough to change day 2’s Milford Sound cruise to a Doubtful Sound day trip. During the cruise, Charlotte saw kea, a little blue penguin, Fiordland crested penguins, Australasian gannets, pied shags, and New Zealand fur seals. All of which, she was able to identify and give facts about!
On day 3 Charlotte and Dave helped feed the birds at the Te Anau Wildlife Park, and then visited the 13000 year old Glow Worm cave across Lake Te Anau.
In her spare time, Charlotte makes jewellery, ornaments and decorations from recycled wire. During the week, she made a range of whio figures, which now sit displayed in the Fiordland Visitor Centre. They have had a bit of interest, so are now for sale with the proceeds going towards the whio!
Charlotte had a great time and now wants to be a DOC ranger when she grows up. DOC staff can’t wait to have her on board!
Check out Charlotte’s big adventure: