Archives For kea

There has been some good news for the cheeky kea with Dulux recently announcing they will be contributing $150,000 to the Kea Conservation Trust nest monitoring programme over the next three years as they continue to build upon their partnership with DOC.

A kea in flight displaying colourful feathers. Photo: Mat Goodman.

This photo by Mat Goodman shows the amazing colours found in kea feathers

In addition to that funding, Dulux will also be raising funds through through the sale of specially marked promotional pails of paint, with one dollar being donated to the Kea Conservation Trust with every pail purchase.

Artwork from the Dulux promotional kea paint pails.

Sample artwork for promotional pails. Look out for them at a store near you!

Dulux’s involvement in the Kea Nest Monitoring Programme means the programme can continue, and grow into other areas to improve our knowledge about how well predator control is working and how quickly kea are declining in areas without predator control.

Female kea and chick in their nest. Photo: Corey Mosen.

Female kea and chick in their nest. Photo: Corey Mosen

Dulux began working together with DOC under the Protecting Our Place partnership this year to help protect and preserve huts all around New Zealand. By supporting programmes to protect our wildlife and backcountry shelters, Dulux is helping to ensure that our future generations can experience the unique sights and sounds of New Zealand.

By Jack Mace, West Coast Tai Poutini Conservancy Office

Two tents on top of the Price Range near Mt Cloher.

Camping on top of the Price Range

I recently spent the weekend camped on top of the Price Range just north of Mt Cloher. For those who don’t know where that is, it’s in the coastal ranges between the Whataroa and Waitangi Taona Rivers, just north of Franz Josef. This wasn’t a jolly recreational camping trip though – we were up there to work, taking an inventory of plants, birds and mammals.

Our campsite itself was tucked into a snow basin, thankfully almost all of the snow melted. We camped on the eastern side of the ridge, in an area dotted with the bright yellow of snow buttercups (Ranunculus sericophyllus), and with views out over the Perth and Whataroa Rivers as far as the Garden of Eden Ice Plateau.

View from camp towards Mt Victoria and the Garden of Eden - (l-r) Chippy Wood, Mike Perry, Anneke Hermans, Pete Doonan.

View from camp towards Mt Victoria and the Garden of Eden – (L-R) Chippy Wood, Mike Perry, Anneke Hermans, Pete Doonan

We spent 3 days working down in some hellish steep and uncomfortable country but were well rewarded. Over 75 species of plant in our 20 metre x 20 metre plot, including Mt Cook buttercups, native foxgloves, eyebrights, alpine cress and several species of prickly speargrass.

Kea swooping around camp.

Kea swooping around camp

We spotted a good number of tahr and chamois through the binoculars, including a few potential trophy heads, and had kea and pipits cavorting around our campsite. We even got see the endangered rock wren and giant alpine weta.

Male rock wren scolding us for intruding in his territory.

Male rock wren scolding us for intruding in his territory

Not bad for a weekend’s work.

The view from the top of Price Range near Mt Cloher.

The view from the top of Price Range

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Robyn Orchard, Communications and Engagement Advisor.

Name: Robyn Orchard.

Position: Communications and Engagement Advisor Tongariro-Whanganui-Taranaki (TWT) and East Coast Bay of Plenty).

Robyn and Mavis at the Sika Show in Taupō with a kowhai and weta painted on their faces.

Robyn and her ‘little sister’ Mavis (mentor with Big Brother Big Sister) at the recent Sika Show in Taupō, who both got face paintings from staff at the DOC stands. Robyn sported the kowhai and Mavis the weta!

At work…

What kind of things do you do in your role?

A male whio/blue duck on the banks of a river.

The male whio I got up close and personal with on a recent trip into Waimana Valley

That’s a really good question and not that easy to answer as I have only been in the role (one of the new ones) for less than three months! But here goes.

As Communications and Engagement Advisor for DOC across both the Tongariro-Whanganui-Taranaki and East Coast Bay of Plenty areas. I provide communications, marketing and engagement advice.  I also work with DOC looking for new opportunities to grow, support and increase the value of conservation.

As well as working on some major national projects such as Whio Forever and the Great Walks, I am also involved in other projects such as Conservation Management Strategies and  Engagement Growth Plans. In Tongariro-Whanganui-Taranaki I work on the strategic direction, Destination planning for Taranaki, Tongariro and the Great Lake and in ECBOP on Central Park, Te Urewera Rainforest route, the Community Volunteers conference and the Tarawera Trail.

As you will have gathered, mine is a shared role, so it is lucky I am a middle child and am used to sharing 🙂

Tuhoe Waimana Kaumatua Paki Te Pou and Robyn crossing the stream on a horse.

Tuhoe Waimana Kaumatua Paki Te Pou and me (the one nearly falling off into the river) on Raven doing one of our many river crossings

What is the best part about your job?

They say that variety is the spice of life and that’s what I love about this new job. Every day is different and I am constantly learning new things.

I am very much a people person so meeting the many people throughout my conservancies who are so passionate about what they do, that it rubs off on you, and is one of the bonuses of my role!

Whio Recovery Group Leader Andy Glaser crosses the stream on horseback.

Whio Recovery Group Leader Andy Glaser on Ziggy Pop and Neo the Whio dog during our Te Urewera Whio adventure

What is the hardest part about your job?

Learning the DOC-isms and all the DOC systems.

What led you to your role in DOC?

Right time right place! An ad in the local newspaper just at the time I was looking for a new challenge. And I think this role is definitely challenging but rewarding.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

A trip into Te Urewera National Park, Waimana Valley for an up close whio encounter with staff from DOC, Genesis, a film crew and some media.

What better way to start a week than jumping up behind Tuhoe Waimana Kaumatua Paki Te Pou on Raven the horse, and trekking back and forth across the river to check traplines, walking with Whio Recovery Group Leader Andy Glaser and his Whio dog Neo seeking out the distinct endangered blue duck.

I wasn’t so keen on Andy’s Whio wake up whistle at around 5am but overall it was one of those memorable experiences, the kind that I am looking forward to having working for DOC.

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Family – husband Dave and daughter Hannah 21, and also the extended whanau which includes our ten international host sons and daughters from around the world who lived with us for their year at school here in New Zealand.
  2. Travel – with sons and daughters (and two host grand daughters) in France, Finland, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, USA, Italy, Argentina, Greenland and Iceland, international travel takes on a whole new light. Staying with ‘family’ you see the real culture and taste the real cuisine.
  3.  Good Friends – I love to get together and socialise with good friends.
Robyn and her family with the family of her "host son" in Argentina.

Christmas and New Year in Argentina with our host son Leo was an amazing experience – eating a very meat based Christmas dinner at 11pm on Xmas Eve meant dessert wasn’t started ’til well into Christmas Day!

Three pet peeves

  1. Lateness.
  2. Lack of, or bad, manners.
  3. Nana drivers!

Three foods

  1. Real Italian gelato.
  2. Central Otago Christmas Black Dawson Cherries.
  3. My Italian host son’s chocolate tiramisu.

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Great Lake Taupō (that’s why we live here).
  2. Alexandra (where I grew up).
  3. Mt Ruapehu (isn’t that why we live here).

Favourite movie, album, book

  • Movie: I Love musicals – so classics like The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Mama Mia.
  • Album: The classic movie soundtracks that I can sing along to in the car.
  • Book: I can’t really admit to being a Harry Potter fan so it will have to be anything by Lee Childs or David Baldacci (physcological thrillers)
Jenny Burke, Corporate Brand and Community Investment Executive Genesis Energy, me,  Sarah Murray from Sunday magazine (Sunday Star Times supplement) and Sophie Barclay from Element magazine (NZ Herald supplement) .

Jenny Burke, Corporate Brand and Community Investment Executive Genesis Energy, me, Sarah Murray from Sunday magazine (Sunday Star Times supplement) and Sophie Barclay from Element magazine (NZ Herald supplement)

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

You can do it reach for the moon, achieve all your dreams. But remember a perm in curly hair makes you look like Janet Frame.

Who or what inspires you and why?

I am inspired everyday by smiles. By those people that overcome adversity, challenges and incredible obstacles but continue to throw themselves into life and smile.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A primary school teacher or a nun (such a cool outfit), but when I heard they didn’t get paid that well I went off that idea.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

Rich – having won lotto first division I would be travelling the world visiting family, friends and that 3-year-old boy (that I sponsor) and his village in Malawi!

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Turn it off and recycle.

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home? At work?

Leave the car at home – ride or walk more. I’m really looking forward to moving into our new office so I can walk to work. And the bike in the garage won’t ride itself!

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

It would have to be the kea – they are so cheeky I think I might be a human kea already!

Robyn's smiling face.

Yep, people say I have the personality of a kea

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Take care of the environment today so it is there for our grandchildren tomorrow.

Which sign do you like best? We asked this question – and you answered! Within three days of putting an online questionnaire on the DOC website, 150 of you had filled it out! And more are coming in every day, which tells me kiwis do care for kea and want to help this loveable clown of the mountains.

Cheeky kea.

Look at those eyes - how can you say no?

DOC and others have struggled for years with the issue of people feeding kea. We’ve put up signs and posters in every mountain town where people and kea meet. We’ve produced pamphlets and written articles for magazines and papers, highlighting the plight of kea. We’ve given talks and worked with schools. 

And yet people still feed them. I mean, it’s hard not to when they ask so nicely! They hop up towards you, with their head tilted to the side, their intelligent eyes flicking between your face and your sandwich… they are so engaging you want to take their photo but they stay just out of reach… until you break off a small scrap and hold it out towards them… click a great shot! 

There’s been research done about visitor behaviour around wild animals (seals and dingoes are two examples) that says that signs don’t really work. We thought we’d try our own experiment with kea.

Which kea poster.

Which message works for you?

We challenged University of Otago design students to test some of the common elements that appear in these sorts of signs. Photos, symbols or cartoons? Polite plea or funny consequences? Words or no words? 

And then we asked you what you thought worked best … and this is what you said. 

Kea poster 2.

Kea poster 2 was the clear favourite

Kea poster two was the clear favourite; 67% of you said it was the most clear; 53% voted it the most likely to catch your eye; and 65% said it was the one you were most likely to obey. 

The reasons given were all pretty similar: “it’s simple”, “it looks official”, “it’s a universally understand symbol”, “It’s a clear DO NOT sign”. 

And my personal favourite answer: “something about a big red mark staying NO that makes you feel like someone is watching you being naughty.” 

OK that all seems pretty sensible. But it’s not the full picture.

Kea poster one.

Kea poster one scored high for aesthetic values!

A lot of you also really like poster one; in fact on the most likely to catch your eye question, poster one captured 37% of the vote. 

“It shows a real kea”, “the beauty of bird and mountain makes you want to find out more – read sign”, “striking pose by the kea, draws your attention”, “beautiful photo”, “because it is clearly a kea”. 

Many of you gave a mixed response to the signs – you liked some elements but not others; and there’s the conundrum – if we can’t make a sign that hits all the right buttons for one person, how can we make one that suits many! 

Here’s a good example: “I LOVE the photos of the KEA. Aesthetically, this is my preferred one – BUT I think that as a sign to communicate across cultures – the circle with red line across it does that most effectively.” 

There were heaps more really great comments which I can’t include in one short blog. But they were all really helpful to build up a better picture of why signs are actually really hard to get right! The questionnaire is still online and will be until the end of April so if you’d like to add your two cents worth go to it! The results will be formally written up after that – feel free to contact me if you’d like a copy!

Busking for kea

Siobhan File —  02/11/2011

Singing on the sidewalk and sizzling sausages are just some of the fundraising efforts made by Tairua School students to help save our native species.

Denise, Tim and Jack busking outside Tairua Four Square

After learning about New Zealand’s biodiversity, Room 5 students wanted to make a difference; and that they did. All together they raised a grand total of $495!

“We did good busking in the streets of Tairua, and we made $59.00 in just under an hour,” says Tim, who was in the Kea group.

Kea, tuatara, kokako, kakapo and the yellow eyed penguin were the chosen species, all receiving a boost to their survival chances thanks to these budding young conservationists.

Mohini and Maddie with the kakapo donation box

“The tuatara’s a unique animal to New Zealand. It’s one of the dinosaurs that’s been here for a million years, and if we don’t save them… who will?” says Henry, whose group raised $270 for DOC’s tuatara recovery project.

The tuatara group raffled off a board of scratchies

Children approached local businesses to ask for donations, organised a raffle with $50 worth of scratchies up for grabs, placed donation boxes in shops, sold good old fashioned sausages, and sang along to Tim’s guitar playing outside the local Four Square. They also put up posters around the community, promoted their cause on the radio, and advertised in the school newsletter.

The students’ teacher, Samantha Telfar, says the students initiated their action plans to help save an endangered species of their choice. “I’m really pleased with the students’ progress and enthusiasm they are showing for their native species projects,” she says.

The yellow eyed penguin group put posters in shops around town

Jaxon, who studied kakapo, learnt that “some are friendly, some are cruisy, and some are big eaters.”

Tairua locals are also big eaters, spending $73.80 on barbequed sausages, with funds helping out kokako.

Connor and the money raised for the kokako

“The plan is to have a kokako in every back yard, and so many we can harvest them,” says Glenn Kilpatrick, helping out behind the barbie.

The students presented their achievements to the class, including information on what they’d learnt, and what they’d do a second time around. Each group was happy with the fantastic results they’d achieved for their chosen species, and wished to thank everyone who’d donated towards their cause.

Kiwis are kea…

Siobhan File —  23/09/2011

Well, it seems a lot of them are anyway. A week after DOC put this very scientific native species determination chart up, nearly 3,000 people have completed it and the comments show most people are kea!

Have you found out what New Zealand native species you are? If so, tell us here!

Your thoughts so far…

Classic kea behaviour

“Kea all the way… WHOOP!” says Ian Martin about his result. Eighteen others agreed with him.

Being a kakapo, it seems right that (of the choices given) Sirocco’s closest match was the kea too. Although, his friend Oliver Christensen commented that he’d always fancied him as a rare shag! Touché Oliver.

The morepork/ruru was a popular outcome as well, and being quite spiritual, the night owls’ comments showed that they definitely felt a significant connection with their results.


Leanne Denz says, “Oooh! Apparently I am a Morepork – have always felt a fondness for those birds and it always feels like home when I hear them!”

And Lisa Miller says, “I’m a morepork… Got it twice (I started in wrong place first time!) so I guess it must be true… Always have been a bit of a night owl…”

Pamela Glading was happy with her result, “I’m a Ruru too and very flattered and happy about that! I think they are wise and wonderful, and I love to hear them call out to their friends.”

Slow and steady wins the race

While Pichi Pie even learnt something from the experience! “I’m a morepork =D! I didn’t know this animal before. It’s cute =D.”

There were a couple of tuatara, and two southern right whales, although Meri C Fox-Szauter wasn’t too happy with her result, “Well, oh boo of boos, I’m a southern right whale.”

And @greengecko29 says “I am a Southern right whale… not sure what I think about that. Beyond a fear of sharp harpoony things.” Poor southerns!

Just keeping on keeping on

But where are the mighty kauri trees? Not a single person has commented on their likeness to the proud and reliable characters. These people have a good head on their shoulders, and stay true to their roots!

It could be that they are too busy looking after all the people in their homes, or using their strength and height… lifting heavy things to high places? Or perhaps they’re just extra rare.

The perfect place to take shelter and move on in

Anyway, DOC wants to record people’s results to get some official quantitative scientific data to go with the qualitative research your comments have provided us with! If you used the chart last week, enter your result below. Otherwise, find out what New Zealand native species you are and then come back to tell us. Thanks!

Here’s a bit of fun for Conservation Week. Use the chart to find out what native species you most closely match. Click on the picture to make it bigger (or download it as a PDF, 360K).

So, you’re a…



You’re one of the world’s mightiest characters. You’re tall and strong and are respected by many. But with great power comes great responsibility, and you find that often you’re reassuring people that ‘My home is your home’ as you make room for another to settle in and take shelter. Because of your strength (if not physically then definitely your inner) you can persevere through tough times, and it is for this reason that people recognise your qualities and feel like they should protect you. With strong links to New Zealand culture, you take pride in your heritage and know a lot about what went on long before those around you arrived!



Sometimes it’s as if you’re from another time, holding a wise and quiet knowledge of the past’s secrets. You’re easily affected by weather and temperature extremes—when it’s warmer you’re more inclined to potter in the garage, discuss our chances in the World Cup, and can find it hard to listen properly to those around you. When it’s cold, you feel the need to call up friends and discuss small details in depth, go shopping or curl up on the couch and watch some trashy TV. Like Beyonce, you’re a survivor and you don’t let predatory people or tough times bring you down.



You’re a quiet sort, although you’re not afraid to speak up or call out when you’re in your element—which is any time after six in the evening. Definitely not a morning person, you focus best once the day winds down and the stars come out. With an unexplained connection to Maori traditions, you’ve almost got psychic traits. Often your musings on what could happen end up being right, and sometimes you could have eyes in the back of your head for all people under your watch know. But you are just looking out for them, somewhat of a guardian really.



Always sticking your nose into other people’s business, you can’t help wanting to know what’s going on around you. You’re just so intelligent that boredom comes easily and as soon as anything new or out of the ordinary comes along, you’re there. You can talk your way into or out of any situation and have no trouble twisting people around your little finger. A burning need to pull apart and know how new gizmos work means accidental breakages are an accepted part of your life. But with the gift of the gab, you manage to charm everyone and you’re known for your cheek and mischievous ways.

Southern right whale

Southern right whale

You work best on your own and enjoy spending time in your own company. In no rush, you move through life at your own pace—you know you’ll get there in the end. You tend to feel a bit panicky when you’re in unknown territory, so you like to know that home’s comforts are there at all times, and not straying too far from these brings you a firm sense of security. You spent a lot of time with your mother growing up, and as such you are (or will be) close with your own offspring. Despite not being overly social, your presence is inspiring and many find you quite breathtaking. For this reason you always seem to end up in front of the camera as people quickly try to snap a pose.

What am I?

I came out as a kea, which is quite accurate for me (as far as accuracy goes when comparing oneself to trees, reptiles, birds and whales!) Just like kea I am fun loving, adore gadgets, and have a ‘beak’ that works quite hard for me. I am told that kea can cause conflict and be annoying though, and I’d rather pretend I don’t share those traits!

If I could be any native species I think I’d be a fantail/pīwakawaka. Even though they’re fairly common I always feel a thrill when I see one—and who would choose to belong to an endangered species anyway? Fantails are adaptable, energetic and cute. And, of course, no one gets annoyed with fantails.

Anyway, make sure you leave a reply letting me know what you came out as, and whether you think it’s right.

I’m particularly interested to see if other native species represent as strongly in our replies as kea. I have a suspicion that kea are more likely to take the time to do this kind of quiz (and then post a response). What do you think? Can you kauri, tuatara, morepork/ruru and southern right whale personalities prove me wrong?