Kea direct traffic after shifting road cones at Homer Tunnel
A group of mischievous kea have been caught on camera directing traffic on a popular tourist route.
The NZ Transport Agency's Milford Alliance team who manage the Te Anau - Milford Highway were a little puzzled to find their road cones in odd places in recent weeks at Homer Tunnel, the entrance to Milford Sound.
After reviewing footage from their cameras at each end of the one-way tunnel the road workers discovered kea were shifting the cones onto the road.
NZ Transport Agency senior networks manager for Southland Peter Robinson the kea were discovered about a week ago when workers reviewed footage from the tunnel cameras.
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The cones the kea had shifted were kept permanently at the tunnel in case it need to be closed at short notice, Robinson said.
This was the first time he knew of them shifting the cones, he said.
Robinson had considered employing them given their natural talents, he joked.
This particular group of juvenile kea who hang around the tunnel seemed a lot more interactive with the public than the kea in past, Robinson said.
In one instance he saw kea destroy a car aerial on a vehicle that was waiting to go through the tunnel, he said.
The Alliance team were going to trial some heavier road cones to try and discourage this new kea behaviour, Robinson said.
The workers were very familiar with working around kea and all infrastructure in the area had been kea-proofed, he said.
Kea Conservation Trust chair Tamsin Orr-Walker said the theory that kea may be shifting the road cones to try and get food could be true, or they are possibly doing it just for entertainment.
People should not feed the kea as it encouraged bad behaviour, but also because many human foods were toxic to the birds.
"Feeding Kea is a real no, no."
It was the first time she had heard of kea shifting road cones, Orr-Walker said.
"It's always fascinating hearing what the kea are getting up to."
The biggest kea exploit she was aware of was an incident in 2009 when a Scottish man had a passport taken by a kea from a tour bus.