Lead poisoning is a very serious issue for kea. Lead fixtures on old buildings in areas of the backcountry (e.g. huts, mines) and where kea and human habitats overlap have been identified as a source of lead exposure for kea. Kea of all age groups sampled in these areas have been found with significantly higher blood lead levels than those in remote areas.
Kea have been observed chewing these fixtures, and damage to lead-bearing buildings has been observed throughout the kea's range. Any level of lead exposure is considered unsafe, as lead can have subclinical effects that can compromise survival (e.g., depressed immune function, impaired development, decreased cognitive function etc.), as well as directly causing illness and/or death. Removal of lead from all buildings in the range of keas is therefore enormously important.
This is a huge job that will require cooperation between contractors, Department of Conservation and private land owners. There are options to involve volunteers through appropriate partnerships with organisations that have suitable H&S practices already in place.
You can find out more about this project here.
Introduced mammals such as mustelids (stoats and ferrets), possums and feral cats are key predators of kea and are present across the extent of the keas habitat. These predators impact on the survival of kea nestlings and the survival of adult females. Stoats can reduce nest survival to near zero in the stoat plague years that follow mast events. Episodes of high adult female mortality may also occur during stoat plagues.
Controlling predators through intensive pest control programmes is therefore vital for the keas future. Predator control methods include baiting (aerial or ground-based applications) and trapping but must be used with caution as kea have been negatively impacted by both control methods, particularly in areas where kea are used to being fed by people. Risk mitigation is necessary at these sites to minimise the incidence of unintentional by-kill through aerial control operations. Read the KCT's position statement on pest control here.
View the video of Department of Conservation workers monitoring kea nests in Westland (please note, some content may be disturbing).