kea gym cRoad builders and maintenance crews in New Zealand have a problem with keas. Not Kias, the Korean cars, but keas, the world’s only alpine parrots native to the country. Keas, it seems, are highly intelligent, maybe the smartest birds alive, and they enjoy playing with bright red traffic cones.

Which has led to an extraordinary development. The New Zealanders are now building kea gymnasiums.

kea gym aThe idea is to keep the birds’ feathery little brains occupied so they don’t start playing with traffic cones. There is security footage of the way they move traffic cones around – go to YouTube and search ‘kea traffic cones’ – and there are two theories offered in explanation. The first is that they’re bored and are having fun disrupting traffic, and the second is that they’re purposefully slowing traffic to beg for food. Smart little cusses, those keas.

Now roadside gyms have been set up for them in four kea trouble spots, all in the South Island; the Homer Tunnel in the Fiordland National Park (which is where the security video comes from) and the Manapouri power station, both at the south-western tip of the South Island, and Nelson and Arthur’s Pass, further north.

kea gym bAccording to the Otago Daily Times in Dunedin the gyms are the result of a partnership between the Department of Conservation, Downers NZ, the University of Canterbury and the Kea Conservation Trust. They are designed to keep the curious birds occupied and engaged and are equipped with ladders, spinning flotation devices, swings and climbing frames. The objects are rearranged on a regular basis to keep the birds interested.

Footage of the Fiordland kea gym is being monitored by a team at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch to find out more about the behaviour of the endangered bird.

Published January 2018


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