All 17 radio-tagged kea in the Mt Arthur region of Kahurangi National Park have survived the 1080 Battle for our Birds operation.
The fate of a further five kea being monitored in the park’s Oparara block will not be known until rain washes the last of the poison bait away.
Josh said the 17 out of 17 survival success rate in Kahurangi’s Wangapeka and Anatoki areas was great news leading into the kea breeding season and on the back of the successful monitoring of a further 26 kea over 2009 and 2011 at Mt Arthur and in the Wangapeka.
By extrapolating the number of kea monitored during on multi- year work at DOC’s intensive study area at Kiwi Saddle, Josh estimated there were between 300 to 400 kea in Kahurangi National Park.
However the bird’s survival was only part of the story.
The success of the 1080 operation would also be measured in the reduction of the number of stoats, which found cavity-nesting birds, like kea, easy prey.
The monitoring of stoats would occur in January to see if the predicted stoat plague had been stymied by 1080 operation areas through their secondary poisoning.
‘‘We were looking to do a ground-based operation this year if the 1080 has left any stoats behind – and that is still on the radar.’’ Josh said the survival of the monitored kea showed the poison’s risk to kea was extremely low – but patchy.
Birds that live near tourist sites tended to have a higher risk, he said.
The hot theory was interaction with humans changed the inquisi- tive birds’ behaviour and they learned they gained rewards (food) from watching and trying different items other then natural food sources.
‘‘The theory is birds around tourist sites have an elevated risk – and the data set supports this,’’ he said.