Raising kids that care for kea

Sarah Mankelow —  22/06/2011

Fatcat and Fishface: Birdbrain CD (MP3)
The smartest bird in the world is me aha
Lord of the mountains and everything I see aha
To eat I use my curved and scimitar-like beak aha
To break into your cars I do not a key aha
Kea, kea, kea, cleverest of all

Dangerous tucker – nibbling on twisties is bad for a kea’s health – the food is unnatural and the car park is not a good placeto be when cars are backing out!

My seven-year old son has decided that his next birthday will be a kea party. He tells me they are his second-favourite bird; after kiwi of course. A recent visit to Arthur’s Pass cemented this amour – his request of seeing a kea was fulfilled with a stop at the Otira Gorge car park. We watched (and played catch with) four kea that were checking us out as much as we were them! While we were there, cars came and went, took photos – threw their lunch onto the asphalt – then left again. Despite all the signs and brochures, people still can’t resist feeding these cheeky beggars – the car park was littered with bread and lunch-wraps.

William and kea check each other out – each as curious as the other!

Turning a child’s interest into action is the next challenge for a parent wanting to raise the next generation of environmentalists. Luckily for us, and for kea, The Kea Conservation Trust offers lots of opportunities for families like us to get involved.

The trust is about to launch into their annual winter kea survey. Anyone can do it; it’s as easy as downloading a survey form from their website to take with you when you venture into kea country, filling it out and sending it in. You can conduct your counts on as many (or as few) Saturday and Sunday afternoons (anytime for as long as you like between 12pm – 4.30pm) throughout July.

What a great reason to escape the Christchurch quake zone and head into the Southern Alps.

Josie’s rock-hopping antics are of great interest to a curious kea.

For those that want to learn more, Tamsin Orr-Walker, Chair of the Kea Conservation Trust, is giving talks at the visitor centres in Arthur’s Pass and Aoraki / Mt Cook National Parks. She will be in Aoraki/Mt Cook on 1 July, and in Arthur’s Pass in Sunday 3 July.

Find out more on their website: www.keaconservation.co.nz

How much time do you have for kea?

If you have 15 minutes

Purchase a calendar, card or DVD from the Kea Conservation Trust shop; all proceeds support their kea projects.

If you have 1 hour

Listen to a talk given by Kea Conservation Trust Chair Tamsin Orr-Walker; on Friday 1 July in Aoraki/ Mt Cook or Sunday 3 July in Arthur’s Pass.

Check out the Kea Conservation website for other locations.

If you have 5 hours

Take a walk in the Southern Alps and fill out a kea survey form if you spot a kea.

If you have 5 days

Visit some places that people and kea clash like ski fields and national parks. Pick up rubbish and talk to people about why they shouldn’t feed kea.

If you have 1 month

If you have Microsoft Publisher, you could help the Kea Conservation Trust with producing their annual newsletter.

If you have 1 year

Volunteer for one of the three positions advertised on the Kea Conservation Trust website; treasurer; regional liaisons or volunteer co-ordinator.

Sarah Mankelow


A North Island defector, I came south to go to Lincoln Uni and never looked back. My first ‘serious’ job with DOC was in Arthur’s Pass. I've been based in Christchurch since the turn of the century!