Tahr hunters to play part in kea conservation

The idea is to take advantage of the large amount of time hunters spend in the backcountry.
The idea is to take advantage of the large amount of time hunters spend in the backcountry. Photo credit: Getty

Tahr hunters will soon play a greater role in kea conservation, with a new collaborative project getting underway this year.

With hunters spending such a large amount of time in the backcountry, the idea is for them to help monitor kea numbers in the Southern Alps.

By recording key data about the birds they see - such as sex, age, behaviour and if any leg bands are identifiable - tahr hunters can help provide valuable information to ensure better management decisions are made to protect the alpine parrot.

The project is a collaboration between the NZ Tahr Foundation, Kea Conservation Trust, and the Game Animal Council.

Kaylyn Pinney, NZ Tahr Foundation scientific advisor says, hunters are "absolutely perfect" to help monitor kea.

"We spend a considerable amount of time in the backcountry - we're probably the largest user-group of public conservation land -  and we spend a lot of time sitting around and watching. We've got the right equipment - spotting scopes, binoculars and cameras - so we can help out doing what we love," Pinny told Magic Talk's Rural Today on Monday.

Hunting parties will be given a Tahr Ballot Kea Sightings Project pamphlet along with their tahr returns and information booklet at the helipad before being flown into their ballot block.

They are then asked to record any kea sightings on the pamphlet and submit it along with their tahr returns in a dedicated box at the hanger after their flight out.

"The really cool thing about the ballot is it's like a supercharged or condensed version of what the Kea Conservation Trust already does," says Pinney, adding that because hunting parties will visit the ballots each week over a three-month period they will provide repetitive samples revealing population trends and dynamics.

"It's pretty exciting if you're a scientist."

Pinney says although hunters can already log kea sightings online now, the idea is to ramp up the monitoring process. 

"What we're looking at doing is take it from the occasional hunter doing it to hunters being the biggest contributor to kea monitoring across New Zealand."