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 which will require cooperation between contractors, Departement 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.