The captive population provides a unique opportunity for researchers to conduct behavioural observations and tests to better manage kea and kea threats in the wild.
All research projects must go through an extensive ethic approvals process, managed by Department of Conservation and either the research facilities own Animal Ethics Committees and/or the kea holders organisation. The majority of kea research projects centre around observations of the animals behaviour to a specific stimulus or to investigate specific behaviours. Projects which the KCT has utilised the kea population to date include:
- response to a repellent combination introduced into pre-feed pellets (to dissuade kea ingesting 1080 pellets in the wild);
- response to a surface repellent combination applied to a variety of objects (to dissuade kea from interacting with pest control bait stations and traps)
- response to a surface stoat repellent (to ensure kea are not repelled from areas where it is applied)
- investigation of nesting behaviour and tracking of developmental stages from hatch to fledging (to provide a resource to aid in aging of chicks in wild nests)
- investigation of captive behaviours and relationship to managment techniques
All of these projects have provided important information influencing the management of both wild and captive kea.