I set out with some pretty high expectations. After all I was going to the “home” of the New Zealand kea – Arthur’s Pass National Park. If you were looking for kea this is the place to be.
So as the 3 of us set out from Andres shelter in the Poulter valley for 6 days of walking in the valleys and high on the alpine ridges I was expecting to come back with a memory chip chocker block of photos and video to share with you.
End of day 1 and we haven’t seen or heard a kea, hopefully tomorrow will be a better day
for talking to the kea. And so it turned out to be – just as we started dropping down the ridge to the old Casey hut site – there they were, 2 kea on the track in front of us, and apparently with no intention of stepping aside.
For 10-15 minutes we watched, “chatted” with, and photographed the kea as they entertained us with their quirky inquisitive mannerisms. Eventually they grew tired of us and flew off into the tree tops nearby and left us to make our way on down the ridge.
I expected this scene would be repeated many more times over the next 15 days , but no!! The closest we got to a repeat experience was the kea in Arthur’s Pass village that entertains the travellers. For the rest of our time in their “home” we heard a few on the far off bluffs, calling across the valleys, we saw several at distance, as they flew through the valleys but it was occasional at best and nothing to compare with our initial contact.
Is our experience now the norm? When we discussed the number of sightings that we had made over the first week with the Arthur’s Pass Department of Conservation (DOC) they were excited with how many we had seen.
And that’s the sad situation that the NZ kea is now in. Numbers are dwindling – not to the point that they are about to follow the moa into extinction. They aren’t in the “critically endangered list like the Kakapo but they need some outside assistance, like that provided by the Kea Conservation Trust to ensure they don’t go that way in the next few years.
Here’s some other photos from our brief kea encounter.
If you want to help the Arthurs Pass Kea Conservation project to grow the NZ Kea population follow this link
3 thoughts on “NZ Kea, where have they gone?”
So, Gavin, is there any reason given for the “loss” of the kea? It seems to be a mystery.
Like the photos of Arthur’s Pass too. How many kms?
Keep training. Mt Denali beckons! BnV
Keas are doing ok in areas where there is predator control. We just completed a survey in the Hawdon Valley where we had several teams camping on the bushline doing kea counts between 6 and 9 morning and evening. It was encouraging to see at least 4 fledglings and we even managed to put transmitters on 3 adult females. We later hope to track these back to their nest cavities so we can determine their future breeding success.
Unfortunately where there is no predator control the kea are not doing so well. The main culprit are stoats but we are also seeing more and more wild cats. More information on the whole project can be found on the givealittle page mentioned above.
You got some wonderful shots, I love all NZ wildlife but I fear for the future of such species as the Kea. Human encroachment and climate change are just the tip of the iceberg. But the Kakakpo’s relative success story is one that can be modelled for multiple species. Intense management is better than doing nothing at all.