By Jessica Meehan – Bird Keeper, Denver Zoo

18th - 27th February 2020

Funds were provided for me by Denver Zoological Foundation, to travel to New Zealand to assist Dr. Laura Young with Blood Lead Level Testing Project.  During the trip we traveled throughout the South Island with the following results:

  • Mt Cook/Aoraki: Captured and banded/tested 6 juvenile kea in the White Horse Hill Campground. All lead tests were medium-high, showing a continuing problem with lead on the buildings in this region.  These finding coupled with a survey of lead on Department of Conservation (DOC) buildings in the village will allow KCT to offer solutions for replacing these materials with community support.
  • Queenstown – Ben Lomond track: Searched for kea on this popular track where they have been sighted many times. No kea arrived or responded to playback calls this day.

Denver Zoo supporting kea monitoring

Further funding from the 2019 grant was provided to purchase a new Yagi aerial for tracking of transmittered kea in various regions as well as 2 way radios for use by the field teams while they work in the back country.  The aerial was in use throughout the summer survey season including during the time I was here, although this specific one was being used in the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks.  Starting February 23, the team was headed to a backcountry survey in the Murchison mountains to band and test more birds as well as follow up on previously banded birds, including the 9 females that were fitted with transmitters last year using 2018 Denver Zoo funding.

Supporting data entry to allow for population analysis

Also during this trip I met with Tamsin Orr-Walker, Chair of the KCT, to learn more about the KCT’s work and the threats to kea in the wild.  This meeting provided a much deeper insight to the challenges, successes and needs of the KCT and will allow me as the Kea SSP Coordinator to advocate for the support of the KCT by other kea-holding institutions in North America.  Tamsin, Laura and I also discussed my role in assisting with the Kea Database project that was funded by the 2020 ACFC grant.

The Kea Conservation Trust is very proud to welcome a new member to their team, Peter Hillary, who today has become Patron of the Kea Conservation Trust!

Peter was the Kea Conservation Trusts keynote speaker in 2017 at the first Kea Convention in Arthur’s Pass and spoke about his family’s commitment to the environment and conservation. “Four generations of the Hillary family have contributed to parks, conservation, outdoor recreation and trails. From the formation of Sagarmatha/Mt Everest National Park in Nepal to gifting an iconic coastal headland on the wild West Coast of Auckland in New Zealand, it is a history that we are very proud of.”

“I love our mountains and natural environment and for me the call of a Kea up at the snow line is one of the thrills of being in the Southern Alps. They are symbols of the Alps and it is abhorrent to think of our mountains without them and that is why I see the work of the KCT and its partners as so important”.

Tamsin Orr-Walker, co-founder and Chair of the Kea Conservation Trust is excited to have Peter on board. “Protecting kea from extinction, a species which faces multiple challenges in an environment increasingly modified by human activity, is a challenge for all New Zealanders. Having Peter, a passionate kea advocate join us in raising awareness of the importance of saving kea is a major boon and we welcome him to our small but dedicated team!”



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