Kea have gained a reputation for attacking sheep and infecting them with a fatal, blood-poisoning bacteria and deforesting pastures, causing farmers to kill them.
Kea have gained a reputation for attacking sheep (Ovis aries), although they usually only prey on wounded or diseased sheep. Once kea attack sheep, the wounds can become infected with Clostridium bacteria. The bacteria can cause blood poisoning, which can be fatal to sheep.
Up until its partial protection in the early 1970s, over 150,000 kea were shot in a bounty scheme, established because rogue individuals were found to be attacking sheep as a source of fat. Deforestation for pasture has placed pressure on the species, and farmers still kill an unknown number of birds each year.
A project to involve communities in kea conservation is underway. Advocacy is aimed at informing alpine users of ways to minimize adverse impacts and to change the negative image of the species often held by high-country farmers and ski-field operators. The Kea Conservation Trust operates a conflict resolution program. Predator control has been carried out and there are plans for it to continue as part of New Zealand’s “Battle for our Birds”. For the kea to thrive, advocacy campaigns need to be continued.