Kea – Scientists of the Southern Alps
Do we love kea because we see so much of ourselves in them?
Bold, curious, and highly intelligent, kea are always looking for new ways to explore and exploit their world – to survive, and survive well. Like humans, kea are born scientists. They observe, hypothethise, and experiment.
We humans think we’re studying kea… but imagine that kea scientists have a secret lab, deep in a South Island mountain cave, where they, in fact, are studying us.
With all this in mind, I couldn’t resist inventing some tongue-in-beak kea scientist characters, to try and get people to vote for them in Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition.
Each kea scientist is on Facebook – and they are open to friend requests, so click their names & get in touch.
Brilliant young humanologist at Cold Cave Labs
Earnestine is a bright young thing. As a brilliant humanologist, she is interested in learning more about humans. Her lab is working hard to bring their research out into the open.
One day, they would like to communicate transparently with humans – to share knowledge, do experiments, hand out questionnaires and interview people. That’s if they don’t get distracted first!
Professor of the cosmos at Cold Cave Labs.
A ground-breaking kea cosmologist, Beatrice spends a lot of time gazing at the Southern night sky, pondering its mysteries.
If kea win Bird of the Year 2015, Beatrice and her good friend Earnestine have pledged to open the lab to human eyes, and let us all see what goes on. They have also been known to implement reward-systems for humans involving chocolate…
Pioneering surgical researcher at Cold Cave Labs.
Brian’s devil-may-care attitude belies how seriously he takes his role as a pioneering surgeon. His work investigating sheep has been greatly misunderstood and caused a great deal of fuss for kea, sheep and human alike right throughout the the early 1900’s.
Researcher of recent relics at Cold Cave Labs.
Joan is usually to be found outside, fossicking through human rubbish in search of modern relics that will help her piece together a clearer picture of human society. She is often seen around Arthur’s Pass, using her strong beak to pull apart any human relics she finds, and is particularly interested in the human automobile.
Obsessive chemist at Cold Cave Labs.
This dashing kea chemist specialises in studying human-made materials. He takes samples of everything he can find – from plastic ski goggles, to woollen beanies, to metal car keys, all in the name of research. He has received a Notabilis Prize for his ground-breaking work with putting plastics on electrical sockets to see what happens. He may also have a kea-crush on Beatrice…
Old school naturalist at Cold Cave Labs
An old-time naturalist, Moulter has an impressive body of work on humans to his name…. He thinks open communication with Homo sapiens through social media is a terrible idea, but the other kea in the lab have out-voted him.
The Kea of New Kealand
Of course, as soon as I had a cast of characters, I started to think more about the world they live in. Our kea scientists inhabit a southern region they call New Kealand.
They are quite enamoured with human politics. One even got involved involved in changing the flag, submitting a design called “Red Beak“.
Their leader – John Kea – is loved by some – but others would like to depose him! Many believe John Kea has let down New Kealand.
And yet these shenanigans have a serious purpose…
Kea are under threat and their numbers are dropping. Their plight reminds us, above all, that even the feistiest, smartest native birds of them all are vulnerable and need our protection.
This post was written by Kea campaign manager and editor of Kiwi Conservation Club’s Wild Things magazine, Johanna Knox.