Endangered kea counted


Kea will be in the spotlight in the coming weeks as the Kea Conservation Trust continues surveying populations in Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks.

Chairwoman Tamsin Orr-Walker said the surveys included reports of nesting females and young males, depending on the time of year, and also offered an overall snapshot of populations in an area.

“We go out and basically go and get a snapshot of the situation.

“It gives an idea of relative abundance.

“We can’t actually tell exactly how many birds are in an area but we get an idea of what populations of birds are declining or increasing.

“With the nest monitoring, we get an idea of how successful they are and whether they’re actually breeding and whether predators are a major issue.”

Surveys have been running since 2009 in areas around the South Island.

“We like to stay in an area for about three years.”

The recently-completed Fiordland survey was the first time the area had been surveyed, she said.

Other groups, including the Department of Conservation and community-led organisations, surveyed other areas around the South Island, such as Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi National Park.

“So with everyone working together we can really start to work out the body of information about how kea are faring across the South Island.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently changed the kea’s status from vulnerable to endangered.

Ms Orr-Walker said the upgrade was a long time coming, as the New Zealand status had changed years ago to reflect the decline in numbers.

“We’ve still got an estimate of 5000 individuals.

“It ranges between 3000 and 7000 based on the modelling they use.

“When you look at those numbers, they’re extremely low for the range of kea.”

People feeding kea could cause major issues for the birds, she said.

If people wanted to help, it was best to let the birds be wild and instead report sightings to an online database, which helped organisations monitor population trends.

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