island conservation new zealand endemic kea alpine parrot

Controversial New Zealand Alpine Parrot Nears Extinction

The polarized New Zealand Alpine Parrot, “Kea”, faces extinction due to invasive species and other threats.

Kea are one of the most maligned of New Zealand birds, as well as one of our most loved. -Tamsin Orr-Walker, chair of the Kea Conservation Trust

island conservation new zealand endemic parrot kea

Keas in Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand. Photograph: Andrew Walmsley/Kea Conservation Trust

The New Zealand Kea (Nestor notabilis), ranked Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)is found in New Zealand and nowhere else on Earth. This rare bird is curious by nature, and as such is known to investigate people and their belongings. Some people, endeared by the “clowns of the mountains”, tried to make them pets, but they proved to be too spirited (i.e. destructive). The Kea’s curiosity has become a liability for the survival of the species; Keas have become targets for farmers and tourists who find them to be problematic and pesky.

island conservation science kea alpine parrot nz

Keas are notorious for their curiosity and audacity. Credit: Geof Wilson/Flickr

The Kea’s curiosity cannot be helped, and neither can their vulnerability to invasive species. Predators that have been introduced to New Zealand’s ecosystem prey on Kea eggs and young.

Recent studies from the Kea Conservation Trust have found two-thirds of all chicks never reach fledgling stage, as their nests are ground-dwelling and they are eaten by stoats, rats and possums (which the NZ government has pledged to exterminate by 2050).
The Kea faces ecological and social hurdles, but with conservation efforts like invasive species removal, and by reaching people through education, perhaps this rare Alpine Parrot will have the chance to avert extinction.

Featured photo: Kea in New Zealand. Credit: Andrew Purdam/Flickr
Read the original article at The Guardian

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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