Bring Back the Kea - NZSki Partnership

Five Year - Platinum Partnership (October 2018-2023)

Once regular visitors to all three ski fields, kea have now dwindled at all three sites with no kea at Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt and 4 kea at the  Remarkables this past ski season (2018). In an effort to protect these remnant visitors and to find out what is impacting them, NZSki is committing significant funds and resources for the next 5 years to address the issues facing the local kea population and to raise awareness nationwide through our schools.

NZSki, in partnership with the KCT, is working to bring back kea to the 3 Peaks - The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt and to increase awareness of the threats to the NZ's unique mountain parrot.

This is an exciting, long-term partnership that will be a major boost to kea in both the Wakatipu and Canterbury areas and will provide a fantastic opportunity for communities to get involved in kea conservation! In order to achieve the projects aims, the following actions will be carried out at each site (and immediate surrounds), over the 5 year term;

Field Work

  • Banding kea to enable follow up sightings and identification of resident birds;
  • Blood lead testing to ascertain potential lead poisoning threat (and treatment as required);
  • Attachment of transmitters to any adult females to enable follow up nest protection and monitoring;
  • Research into reasons for local kea decline.

Education and Advocacy

  • Develop and erect information panels to increase awareness of the kea as a taonga species;
  • Support the Kea for Kids education programme.

In addition to this NZSki aims to support keas return to the area by;

  • Laying and maintaining trapping lines.
  • Native planting and revegetation at the Wakatipu Ski fields.

Year 5 Outcomes - 2022-2023

Field Work - Mt Hutt ski field kea project (2023-2024)

This project was initiated in 2023 in partnership with University of Canterbury (UoC) researchers. Kea numbers at Mt Hutt ski field have declined dramatically over the years. The aim of this project is to find out the following:

  • Identify any ski field kea and establish lead status
  • Investigate potential predator impact
  • Identify available kea habitat
  • Identify individual kea territories and nest cavities

More on this project, including outcomes can be found on the NZSki's Bring back the kea - Mt Hutt project page.

Education/Advocacy - New signs for Ben Lomond

The new NZSki funded kea sign design was installed by the DOC Whakatipu team, at Te-taumata-o-Hakitekura (Ben Lomond) Saddle in June 2023 (updating the KCT sign currently in place). The sign includes banner artwork from Ngāi Tahu artist, Fayne Robinson, with vector files kindly shared by Department of Conservation. Thank you to everyone involved!

The signs have proven very popular with more being made for installation on the Routeburn Track in 2024 and posters printed for those schools visited during the "Kea for Kids" roadshow.

Year 3 and 4 Outcomes - 2021-2022

Field Work

Two catch trips were carried out at the Remarkables ski field 26 and 27th July 2021. Our two volunteers were Dr. Luis Ortiz-Catedral (NZ Parrot Trust) and our Patron Peter Hillary. One additional kea was caught up on the 26th bringing our total banded at the Remarkables to six!
• Keanu Reeves (sub adult male) - white A6 on orange

Keanu was seen with at least two other kea, both of which were already banded (but not able to be identified as it was too dark). The same group were present at the ski field the following evening but were unable to be caught.

Support of kea in the Murchison and Stuart Mountains

In November 2021, NZSki also became proud sponsors of kea monitoring work in the Murchison Mountains, Fiordland. A catch trip was carried out between the 1- 10th November resulting in 33 kea being caught up and six new transmitters (txs) attached to females (bringing the total of active txs currently in the Murchisons to eight). Active signals were also received from two transmitters fitted in February 2021 indicating that neither of these female was nesting. Three birds from 2019 whose transmitters had died, were sighted, confirming the batteries had gone flat. A nesting pulse was also picked up from a female in the neighbouring Stuart Mountains.

We look forward to following up on these 8 females during the 2022 breeding season (June - December).

New signs for Ben Lomond

The new NZSki funded kea sign design was finalised and will be installed at Te-taumata-o-Hakitekura (Ben Lomond) Saddle in 2023 (updating the KCT sign currently in place). The sign includes banner artwork from Ngāi Tahu artist, Fayne Robinson, with vector files kindly shared by Department of Conservation. The sign also includes a QR code which when scanned, will take viewers to this page to read up about NZSki's Bring back the Birds initiative.

Year 2 Outcomes - 2019 - 2020

Field Work

A catch trip was attempted during the 2020 ski season however no kea were caught. This may have been partly due to the reduced hours of operation at the ski field because of covid restrictions, resulting in fewer kea being attracted to the area after hours.

Year 1 Outcomes - 2018-2019

Field Work:

Lead testing and treatment (if required) of kea at the Remarkables Ski area (winter 2019).

NZSki is providing local funding to test Wakatipu kea for lead poisoning and ensure they stay Lead Free. All kea tested at the ski field are also banded and this information is entered onto the Kea Sightings Database, providing valuable information on kea numbers and movements around the Wakatipu area.

After 2 catch trips to the Remarkables Ski area, a total of 5 kea have now been banded and at least 7 individual kea (one an adult female), are confirmed as visiting the site on a regular basis. All of the kea caught up were also blood lead tested and found to have low blood lead levels (below 5 ug/dL).

If you see any of these banded kea, please visit the database and enter their details:

  • Tāhae - White A3 on Green
  • Bezett - Red AF on White
  • Kai - White AJ on Orange
  • Nokea - Orange M on Black
  • Shred - Yellow F on Red

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