New Zealand kea, the world's only alpine parrot, faces extinction
The intelligent, playful birds are under threat from non-native predators and also from farmers who see them as pests
“We can educate people about how to behave responsibly with kea, and we can enclose protected environments, but the lead poisoning is hard,” said Josh Kemp, a kea expert at New Zealand’s department of conservation.
“And we can’t afford any Kea losses at this stage, they are too vulnerable.”
An estimated 150,000 kea were killed from the 1860s onwards thanks to a government bounty introduced after conflict with sheep farmers. DOC and the Kea Conservation Trust continue to record intentional kea deaths each year (either shot, bludgeoned, or poisoned by humans) though targeted kea deaths are thought to be largely under-reported, because they are an endangered and protected species.
“Education efforts have gone a long way towards New Zealanders learning to love and respect the kea, but if the kea cause financial loss or begin to hit people’s bottom line, that is when we are still hearing stories of Kea being killed.” said Kemp.
Despite their protected status, keas have divided Kiwis between those who enjoy the cheeky parrot’s animated nature, and those who curse its destructive habits such as damaging cars, tents and buildings in alpine environments, attacking stock and habitually stealing food.