Kea are held in New Zealand captive facilities for three main purposes:
- Advocacy – to raise public awareness of kea; the issues facing the species in the wild and the ways in which people can help protect them;
- Research – utilising captive individuals to better understand the species and threats to the species through controlled and ethical trials;
- Potential Insurance population – holding a viable, genetically and behaviourally robust population for supplemetation of the wild population should the need be identified.
A permit is required to hold kea in captivity within New Zealand. Permits are managed by the Department of Conservation and are issued for a 5 year term. Currently there are just over 60 kea held in 20 registered facilities throughout New Zealand (2013). The number of kea held has reduced from 102 in 2002 due to an aging population. Many of these kea are genetically important and may potentially be used in future breeding programmes.
New increased husbandry standards as detailed in the 2010 Kea Husbandry Manual (developed by the KCT), will ensure that holding of kea in the future is restricted to facilities which are able to achieve high standards of management and housing. Enforcement of these standards will be the responsiblity of DOC who will conduct 5 yearly audits prior to issueing of holder permits.