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Kea–Human Conflict

Kea behaviour can be destructive and annoying. However, unlike other countries, conflict with our wildlife is not life-threatening to people. It can however be life-threatening for kea. Every year a number of kea are found shot, intentionally injured or poisoned as a result of conflict situations. Additionally, a number of kea are relocated each year to areas away from people due to threats of destruction by members of the public. Relocation is a last resort considered in exceptional circumstances only when all other options are exhausted.

It is important to remember that many communities throughout the South Island DO live CONFLICT-FREE with kea. It can be done and is generally only a matter of making a few changes in the way that you live and/or protect your property.
The Behaviour
What you can do
How we can help

Inquisitive Behaviour

Kea are neophilic – they love exploring anything new. This is an evolutionary response over millions of years to an extreme environment
They are therefore attracted to human activity and belongings
Anything that is able to be manipulated (soft and pliable) is of particular interest
Anything which provides a food reward is of even more interest (ie food inside a styrofoam container or bin)
There has been some research to suggest that certain colours attract kea, in particular white, yellow and red.

What You Can Do

Don’t leave anything that can be damaged lying around outside
If you can’t put it away, cover any vulnerable areas with a kea proof cover
Close all doors and windows when you vacate a premise
Ensure all rubbish bins are securely closed at all times
Ensure no one is feeding kea – it only takes one instance to start the cycle again
Feed pets inside where possible and dispose of any uneaten pet food
Do not bang on ceilings, yell or throw things at kea as this will only make them more curious
Use a garden hose to move kea off areas – be accurate so it doesn’t become a ‘game’ to them
Use deterrents such as bird spikes to keep kea off roof areas

How We Can Help

Our Conflicts Response Programme provides the following resources to help communities resolve kea conflict while protecting remnant kea populations and is free to anyone having issues with kea:
A conflicts database – to record kea issues and track the process of resolution
An advice package for people with conflict issues – to enable people experiencing issues with information on what they can do and who they can contact.
On the ground support during conflict events – this will involve free on-site assessment and report of the situation, trialling of kea repellent options and kea proofing areas (where practicable and as funding allows), ongoing support until the situation is resolved.
In addition to this the programme will provide us with the ability to:
Undertake ongoing research into methods of conflict resolution
Appoint key people within affected communities to be our eyes and ears for kea
Encourage community lead kea conservation initiatives to resolve conflict in key areas
Please be aware that removing kea from an area is a last resort, ONLY considered in extreme circumstances and when all other options are exhausted. It must be performed by authorised persons (as approved by Department of Conservation).

How you can help

We need sites where we can trial different kea deterrent options. If you are having regular issues with kea and are happy to be involved in a trial, please contact us.
Contact us if you are happy to be our eyes and ears in your community. You can alert us to any conflict situations in the community that we may not be aware of or send us details of any human behaviour which may be contributing to situations arising.
Contact us if you can keep an eye out for kea. People have threatened to kill kea and we need to know if this is likely to occur or has occurred.
Help us to help you – we are a charity and as such have limited funds available. We do not charge for our time but would appreciate your support of our staff to resolve these situations. Accommodation and a warm welcome would be enormously appreciated!
And finally, please be tolerant of kea – they were here long before any people arrived in NZ and they have a right to live here too.

Historical conflict

Conflict between kea and New Zealand high country sheep farmers was first recorded in Wanaka during the laste 1860’s. Signficant sheep losses were attributed to kea attacking sheep and in an effort to “fix” the kea problem on high country runs, the government instigated a bounty system for kea. Bounties reached as high as £1 a beak – about $120 today (Temple, 2011). Half of the bounty amount was paid out by the Department of Agriculture who published this information and from this a conservative figure of 150,000 keas were estimated killed in the 100 years to 1970 (ibid).

The term ‘kea strike’ or ‘flagging’ was used to describe the physical damage done by a kea to sheep.