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Supporting Forestry Kea

Funded by OneFortyOne (formerly Nelson Forests)
(2019-2023)

The KCT is very excited to be partnering with OneFortyOne to better understand and support kea utilising plantation forests in the top half of the South Island. $100,000 donated by OneFortyOne over the next 5 years will be used to fund the following research and programmes:

  1. Conflict Transformation Programme.
  2. Citizen Science Research - How important are plantation forestry sites to kea populations?
  3. Research project - Supporting kea in-situ – a case for supplementary feeding to support wild kea populations.

In addition to programme funding, there is also an opportunity for OneFortyOne to contribute in-kind support to developing, trialling and assessing a variety of kea proofing strategies and tools at forestry sites. This information would then be disseminated via the KCT website to help others experiencing issues with kea, thereby directly benefiting local kea and the human communities who co-exist with them.

Through involvement with OneFortyOne, the contract workforce can also be involved, which would result in a more direct way of engagement and development of empathy for the programme and better sharing of ideas. This work will also identify the direct and indirect costs (financial and social) to the plantation forest industry of working in the rohe of Kea.   This information, to date, has been predominantly anecdotal.  The costs to machinery / equipment and to kea (social) will be quantified as well as the costs of distraction / mitigation.   OneFortyOne is keen to help and wants people to understand the value that can be gained by finding methods that reduce damage (directly and indirectly to the industry) and safeguard Kea.


Project details

1. Conflict Transformation Programme

Funding proposed: $7,000/annum for part funding of Conflict Coordinator, Top of the South position.

In-kind Support: Reporting of conflict situations at forestry sites; trialling of kea proofing methods and tools; GIS mapping of kea conflict locations and kea sightings.

Description: Kea have survived an extended and extensive level of persecution with over 150,000 killed in a bounty system over a 100 year period. Although now fully protected, conflict is still a major threat for kea with the majority of conflict cases occurring in the Tasman area and a high proportion occurring at forestry sites.

The Conflicts programme is a core KCT project which has run since 2014. This is extremely important work; resolving conflict situations throughout the region which could otherwise escalate, putting local kea populations at direct risk of harm from people. For more information please visit our Conflicts Resolution page.

2. Citizen Science Research - How important are plantation forestry sites to kea populations?

Funding proposed: $7,000/annum for catching, banding and collection of biodata and data entry support.

In-kind support: Reporting of kea sightings at forestry sites (to enable banding of un-banded birds and reporting band details of banded individuals); GIS mapping of kea sightings.

Description: Colour banding of kea provides important re-sighting opportunities which give information on individual kea survivorship, social affiliations, movement and status of populations over time. Although we know kea visit forestry sites, we currently don’t know how many or how mobile these birds are, or whether they regularly hold territories within managed forests or choose instead to breed in adjacent native bush areas. Individually identifying birds will enable some of these questions to be answered and for additional research work to be carried out as opportunity arises.

3. Research project – Supporting kea in-situ – a case for supplementary feeding to support wild kea populations.

Funding proposed: $11,000/annum (equipment, monitoring of kea to find nests, stable isotope analysis of blood/feathers to ascertain proportion and sources of dietary protein).

In-kind support: GIS mapping of kea nests and protein sources in forestry areas.

Description: Kea have been monitored at a number of sites across the South Island. In some areas, populations are struggling, whereas in others, they appear relatively abundant. Three areas where kea are significantly more numerous than others to date (> 75 individuals captured and banded during research) are the Perth Catchment area on the West Coast and the Murchison and Stuart Mountains in Fiordland. All areas have intensive pest control programmes (aerial 1080 or ground-based trapping) within or adjacent to them.

Additionally, all sites have frequent culling programmes targeting deer or tahr with either carcasses or gut piles left in-situ. Other sites where kea are also seen in large numbers include windfall/windthrow sites within managed plantation forests. Trees that have fallen over (e.g. from severe weather events), provide suitable habitat for huhu grubs. Once the surrounding forest is harvested, these wind-thrown trees are exposed attracting mobs of up to 20 kea at a time to feed on the huhu grubs. Although kea appear relatively numerous at these sites, it is not known whether this abundance of protein increases kea productivity locally.

This project run within plantation forests will be part of a South Island wide initiative investigating whether there is a correlation between protein abundance and kea abundance and whether this, in conjunction with intensive pest control, results in increased numbers of resident breeding pairs successfully fledging chicks. This forestry project will provide a model for testing this hypothesis at other sites across the South Island.


Outcomes

Year 1: Sept 2019 – August 2020

OneFortyOne partnered up with NZFOA to help catch, band and blood lead test five forestry kea in the Tasman area on the 9th September. All kea returned low blood lead levels and can now be monitored between sites to ascertain their movements.


Year 2:  Sept 2020 – August 2021

Research Project update

Research into forestry kea began in earnest with the final project methodology and all permit requirements approved. Field work for the project, “Kea habitat use and feeding preferences in exotic forestry blocks of Nelson, New Zealand” began at the beginning of 2021 and involves banding, collecting biodata and attaching GPS transmitters to kea to track their movements. All handling of kea is overseen by one of our senior banders, Dr Laura Young.

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