Natureland's new kea enclosure open to public
Nelson's Natureland wildlife park is planning a reputation makeover for New Zealand's cheekiest parrot.
Two kea, Holly and Solitaire, have taken up residence in their new high-stud abode at the park - a large walk-through aviary built specifically for the endangered birds.
Natureland director Meg Rutledge said she hoped it might help do some bridge-building between kea and the general public.
"The kea often get a reputation for being cheeky in a bad way and we'd really like to highlight that actually that intelligence and curiosity that they're famous for is sort of what makes them so amazing," Rutledge said.
After a month on their own, the two kea saw a flock of visitors come through the aviary doors on Saturday, eager to see them up close.
Auckand boy Kalle Watt, 6, who was visiting his Nelson grandmother Angela, was clear about what impressed him most.
"I like their beautiful wings," he said.
His father Dougal was equally impressed and said the enclosure was "really cool" and "very beautiful".
Local woman Estelle Courtney said she'd been a longtime supporter of Natureland and was impressed with how it had developed.
"The transformation defies belief, it's just awesome," Courtney said.
Native to the top of the South Island and the world's only alpine parrot, kea are an endangered species.
"The surviving breeding pairs in the top-of-the-south are more under threat than the ones further down south so their conservation is super important," Rutledge said.
"There were a few of us who felt we should be promoting excitement about having kea in our area and giving people the opportunity to have fun experiences with them."
Rutledge hoped by having the walk-through enclosure it would help people understand how to interact with kea in a "mutually beneficial" way.
She said despite people's best intentions, kea were not aided when fed by humans who encountered them in the wild.
"A lot of foods that we eat are toxic to them so you might not know that what you're feeding to the bird is quite toxic to them... it will take a little bit of time, but later they could end up getting quite sick or ill from it."
The walk-through aviary has been designed so people can get up close and personal with the birds, while still giving them a space that mimics their natural habitat.
"We drew some of our inspiration from Kahurangi National Park, which is a really important kea nesting habitat," Rutledge said.
They also included alpine features such as rocks and native plant species, and built the aviary with high vantage points.
"At the top of the aviary and the top of the perches up there, the birds can actually see even further than Natureland's boundary and that's a really great natural behaviour for the kea to have because they're so used to being able to go above tree line."
The enclosure was sponsored by Nelson Forests, project managed by Gibbons and designed by Davis Ogilvie.
Rutledge said the enclosure had been built large enough to support a more kea, but Natureland would take advice from the Department of Conservation as to when and how that might happen.
Key things about the kea
While their lactose intolerance might scream trendy millennial, don't offer them smashed avocado on toast.
"Avocados are deadly to a parrot," Rutledge said.
In fact, offering any food to them in the wild is a no-no because even if it isn't toxic, it stops them learning how to forage for food - a vital survival skill for them in winter.
Offering them anything to play with is also risky - the cheeky inquisitive bird has been known to play finders-keepers with whatever it can get hold of.