Captive kea provide an opportunity for people to learn about, understand and empathise with their wild counterparts. Kea in the wild are often considered a nuisance and as such are still persecuted because of their propensity to investigating and destroying huma property.
Fostering understanding and tolerance for species which are so interactive is vitally important for their continued survival. It is only through changing perceptions of kea as well as changing peoples behaviours when they encounter them in the wild that kea will be protected in the future.
However to ensure the public are inspired to make these critical changes in awareness and behaviour, their experience with kea in captivity must be one that is inspiring. This can only be achieved through ensuring individual facilities enclosures and husbandry techniques are of a standard that positively fulfills the species physical and psychological requirements and immerse and enthuses the public.
The World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) promotes the importance of zoos to connect the public to conservation initiatives in the wild. For NZ zoos to connect their kea to the public and as a result, make real conservation impact, they must:
- ensure best practice management of kea (daily husbandry, training and conditioning and daily (unpredictable) enrichment);
- ensure a complex environment which encourages performance of natural behaviours and discourages unnatural stereotypic behaviours (which are evidence of a poor environment);
- provide clear links to conservation of kea in the wild (through signage, keeper talks and links to conservation organisations working directly with kea);
- provide opportunities for direct conservation involvement and communicating these to their visitors.