An opportunity to learn all about the inquisitive kea and how to live together without conflict is coming to Motueka on Tuesday 24 June.

Date:  18 June 2014

An opportunity to learn all about the inquisitive kea and how to live together without conflict is coming to Motueka on Tuesday 24 June.

The kea is well known for its explorations in alpine carparks. But over the past couple of years kea have been venturing down towards the Abel Tasman beach settlements, and not everyone appreciates their presence.

Leigh Marshall, Department of Conservation Ranger Services, Biodiversity, says a visit by the Kea Conservation Trust will provide people with ways of learning how to live peacefully with this cheeky bird, as well as learning more about the species.

"Kea are neophilic – they love exploring anything new. They are attracted to human activity and belongings, and anything soft and pliable is of particular interest. Anything which provides a food reward is even more interesting.

"They are also the world's only mountain parrot, highly intelligent, and a nationally threatened species. Fewer than 5,000 kea remain, found only in the South Island of New Zealand."

The inquisitive kea. Photo: Daniel Pietzsch (CC BY-NC 2.0).
An inquisitive kea in Fiordland, photo by Daniel Pietzsch

The Kea Conservation Trust note that kea face 9 major threats to their continuing existence – one of which is human reaction to conflict situations. Tamsin Orr-Walker, Chair of the Kea Conservation Trust, recognises that kea behaviour can be annoying.

"We work with communities to find solutions to these conflict issues. Simply making a few changes, such as putting gear away, cleaning up rubbish, leaving doors and windows closed, and never feeding kea can make it possible to live conflict free."

The Kea Conservation Trust will be presenting a free community talk at 7pm on 24 June at the Motueka Sports Pavilion, as part of a national advocacy tour. The theme of the tour is 'Conflict – impacts and solutions'. The talk will look at conflict in both a global and local context, and discuss real conflict situations specific to kea. Discussion on experiences and solutions will be encouraged.

Tamsin says, "Our aim is not only to share what we have learned about this charismatic species over the years, but also to hear your thoughts and experiences so we can ensure a future for this iconic mountain parrot."

Kea – the world's only mountain parrot. Photo: C. Rudge.
The highly intelligent Kea are the world's only mountain parrot, and are unique to the South Island of New Zealand


Kea behaviour can be destructive and annoying. However unlike other countries, conflict with our wildlife is not life threatening to people. It can, however, be life threatening for kea.

Every year a number of kea are found shot, intentionally injured or poisoned as a result of conflict situations.

Additionally a number of kea are relocated each year to areas away from people due to threats of destruction by members of the public. Relocation is a last resort considered in exceptional circumstances only when all other options are exhausted.

It is important to remember that many communities throughout the South Island do live conflict free with kea. It can be done and is generally only a matter of making a few changes in the way that you live and/or protect your property.

Facts about kea

  • Kea have lived in your local area for several million years (humans for less than 700 years)
  • They are the world's only mountain parrot
  • Are considered to be highly intelligent
  • Are unique to the South Island of New Zealand
  • Are nationally threatened and declining
  • Number fewer than 5,000 across 3.5 million hectares
  • Are fully protected under the Wildlife Act
  • Populations around human areas are potentially sinks (i.e kea attracted by human activity are more likely to die as a result of human induced threats)
  • Face at least 9 main identified threats – one of which is on-going persecution because of conflict situations

Why are they so destructive?

  • Kea love exploring anything new. This is an evolutionary response over millions of years to an extreme environment
  • They are therefore attracted to human activity and belongings
  • Anything that is able to be manipulated (soft and pliable) is of particular interest
  • Anything which provides a food reward is of even more interest (ie food inside a Styrofoam container or bin)
  • There has been some research to suggest that certain colours attract kea, in particular white, yellow and red.

What can you do about it?

  • Don't leave anything that can be damaged lying around outside
  • If you can't put it away, cover any vulnerable areas with a kea proof cover
  • Close all doors and windows when you vacate a premise
  • Ensure all rubbish bins are securely closed at all times
  • Ensure no one is feeding kea – it only takes one instance to start the cycle again
  • Feed pets inside where possible and dispose of any uneaten pet food
  • Do not bang on ceilings, yell or throw things at kea as this will only make them more curious
  • Use a garden hose to move kea off areas – be accurate so it doesn't become a 'game' to them
  • Use deterrents such as bird spikes to keep kea off roof areas

What does Kea Conservation Trust do?

Kea Conservation Trust work with DOC and communities to resolve kea conflict and protect kea populations. They are currently seeking further funding to:

  • Develop a conflicts database
  • Prepare an advice package for people with conflict issues
  • Provide on the ground support during conflict events
  • Research methods of conflict resolution
  • Appoint key people within affected communities to be our eyes and ears for kea
  • Encourage community lead kea conservation initiatives to resolve conflict in key areas

How can you help?

Contact Kea Conservation Trust:

  • If you have any issues with kea
  • To complete a survey form if you have or have ever had conflict with kea
  • If you are having regular issues with kea and are happy to be involved in a trial of different kea deterrent options
  • If you are happy to be their eyes and ears in your community, to keep an eye out for kea and/or conflict situations

And finally, be tolerant of kea – they were here long before any people arrived in NZ and they have a right to live here too.

Related links


Leigh Marshall, DOC Ranger Services, Biodiversity
Phone: +64 3 528 1435

Tamsin Orr-Walker, Chair, Kea Conservation Trust
Phone: +64 27 424 9594

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