Darwin’s theory gave this world the most indispensable fact. The fact that everything evolves, extinct, and everything is in a due process of change. And since we knew this fact, hunt and regard for the endangered, extinct and rare species started, which ultimately led us to a much-needed process of conservation.
But who would imagine that in the distant South Island of New Zealand, there lives a dog which is saving innumerable birds with his human sidekick, Corey Mosen! Corey is one of only a handful of kea conservationists in New Zealand.
This four-legged savior is named Ajax who is a highly-trained border collie and is helping his human companion Corey to locate an amazingly intelligent bird species, ‘Kea’. This makes him the world’s only Kea dog! (Dog who saves Kea). Ajax has an amazing sense of smell which has been trained and channelized by Corey to locate these exclusive mountain parrots in their earthen furrow nests. The duo climbs stiff peaks on helicopters, jump over streams, and travels on ropeway trekking down into the rocky alpine areas to find Kea. Ajax initially smells and spots the furrow followed by which Corey crawls into them to install cameras that watch over these bird’s nests. Moreover, if they find a grown Kea, they weigh, examine and record its health.
Over the years, the species has seemed to know and like Ajax, their rescuer, for they do not fear the canine at all and seem to act like a playmate at times! He is indeed an amazing dog and a true guardian of nature.
Kea is an elusive alpine parrot which is one of three parrot species which evolved in isolation over millions of years and are highly valued because of their brain power. Its intellect has been measured to be equivalent to a 4-year-old child! Smart indeed!
Talking about Kea’s conflict with humans, leading to its endangerment, these birds strike on high country sheep and actively interact with people and their property, at times damaging them, and this ‘neophilia’ – love of new things, has brought people into conflict with Kea to an extent which is unprecedented with another endemic avian species.
In late 1860’s, high country sheep farmers a legal government bounty was initiated in the late 1860’s which resulted in an estimated 150,000 kea killed up until the early 1970’s. Fewer than 5,000 individuals remain across an area of 3.5 million hectares and they are now listed as Nationally Threatened (NZ Threat Classification List) and Vulnerable, population decreasing under the IUCN Red List. Although Kea is now fully protected under the Wildlife Act, their investigative behavior often results in the destruction of human property and as a result, they are considered a nuisance in areas where they cross over with people. As such kea deaths due to direct human persecution are recorded each year.
As a result, the bird is now listed as Nationally Threatened (nationally endangered) under the New Zealand Threat Classification System (Robertson et al, 2012) and vulnerable, population trend decreasing by the IUCN Red List (Birdlife International, 2013).
image & video: source