Where have the kea gone? If you’ve been to the Zoo recently, you may have noticed that the aviary home to our flock of keas (parrots from New Zealand), is undergoing renovations. We are adding two more outdoor enclosures, two private breeding enclosures, and central air conditioning to the housing building as well as giving the building a fresh coat of paint. While the work is in progress, the keas have been moved to off-exhibit holding. Before long, they will be back on display in their new and improved home.
The private breeding enclosures are especially important to continue our successful kea breeding program. Our current flock of 14 keas includes two new birds that were hatched right here at the Zoo
last spring. One is an outgoing male named Arthur (wearing an orange leg band) after the Arthur’s Pass area in New Zealand where keas are found. The other is a feisty female named Marie Curie (wearing a red leg band) after the famous female French physicist and chemist. Soon we will receive a few new adult keas from other institutions to add new genetics to our breeding population, while some of our young juveniles will move onto other facilities.
In the field, the Zoo continues to support the Kea Conservation Trust’s efforts to conserve keas. Highly intelligent and curious birds, keas can sometimes be destructive to human property. KCT works with local communities to prevent and resolve conflicts that arise. Read on for an update from the KCT Conflict Resolution Coordinator.
Guest blogger: Andrea Goodman, Kea Conservation Trust
I am now well in to my second year as the Conflict Resolution Coordinator for the Kea Conservation Trust. In this year, I have encountered repeat offenders (mischievous kea turning up at more than one site!), increased my work with the forestry sector, and kept busy with phone calls, advice and visits to properties with kea present.
One of the noticeable differences from last year is the shear volume of calls. They are often from the public just letting me know they have kea visiting, causing absolutely no trouble at all. I think this is fantastic, and actually is a message the Kea Conservation Trust wants to get across. Just because you have kea visiting, it does not mean they will cause trouble. If you ignore them, and they are not fed, chances are they will move on with no drama.
An example of this was the influx of kea in the Murchison area (a small rural township in New Zealand) late last year. Up to 18 birds were arriving in the evenings and hanging around farms and the village. They were feasting on walnuts at a few properties, landing in backyards, and sometimes playing around. Generally, they were pretty well-behaved guests. The community organised a public meeting at which I gave a talk. It was a great question and answer session, myth-busting and advice forum. The kea hung around for quite awhile (probably until the walnuts ran out), but were pretty well-tolerated and left on their own accord. The community in general was really ‘stoked’ to have the kea around.
The low point for me during the year would have to be a phone call out of the blue from media asking me about an alleged shooting of kea at a forestry site. I was gobsmacked as I had no indication this had happened. I felt sick to my stomach as the alleged incident occurred at a forestry site I had previously visited. I felt a certain guilt that I had let the kea in my area down. What followed, however, was an amazing outpouring of support from locals, those further afield and the media – all equally appalled at an apparent inane act of violence. Although the shooting was never substantiated as the ‘shooter’ said he made the story up, it raised the profile of kea and highlighted the penalties for harming our native wildlife.
As I said last year, if you are having issues with kea, the best thing is to get on to it as soon as possible. The Kea Conservation Trust, with support from the Department of Conservation, does not advocate the translocation of troublesome kea. Instead, together we can look at areas where we can minimize damage and try to discourage kea hanging around. Sometimes it may be a really simple solution that can make a huge difference, or having an empathetic ear to talk to is all that is needed.