Known as a cheeky character and scourge of the skifield, the kea certainly has its own brand of charisma but there are now fewer than 5000 of the endangered mountain parrots left in the wild.
Vulnerable to threats by exotic pests, toxins such as lead, and sometimes human cruelty, the kea has an ally in the Kea Conservation Trust, which aims to protect the species by pinpointing local threats and increasing awareness.
Trust chairwoman Tamsin Orr-Walker says the Watson brothers’ ambitious 21 peaks in 21 days fundraising expedition is a “creative and inspiring” way to address the plight of the kea, which could become extinct in the Nelson Lakes National Park.
“The brothers’ efforts will not only raise awareness of the issues facing kea in Nelson Lakes National Park and throughout the South Island, but will also raise vital funds to help us continue our work to save kea.”
Trust research in the late 1990s showed Nelson Lakes had a stable population but new studies between 2009 and 2012 have shown kea declined by 80 per cent during a decade.
The trust surveyed about 14,000 hectares of the national park and found just three resident pairs, only one of which was breeding at an average of two chicks a year.
In the 1990s there were 11 confirmed pairs over 7000ha producing 10 chicks on average each year.
To combat the alarming decline, the trust is working with the Conservation Department’s St Arnaud branch, by setting up pest control around nests.
Intensive yearly nest monitoring is being done.