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The real reason why nothing is safe in the NZ mountains - Tactical Ninja

Oct. 8th, 2014

10:20 am - The real reason why nothing is safe in the NZ mountains

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NZ doesn't have any native mammals, so ecological niches tend to be filled by birds. Thus, we have a mountain-dwelling, snow-loving, semi nocturnal parrot called the kea. IMO if it were a mammal it'd be a monkey.

This is Gutsache:



Kea have beaks like a tin opener, the curiosity and intelligence of monkeys, and the determination of.. well, a very determined thing. They are renowned for dismantling the vehicles of tourists and snowboarders, and there used to be a bounty on them because in winter they'd grab onto the wool of sheep and hang there, chewing through the skin and gobbling the fat around the sheep's kidneys. This would kill the sheep but the kea didn't give a crap about that, they were just all OM NOM NOM NOM kidney fat.

So that little guy up there discovered our camp on the second day. He homed in on the cheese and scoffed about 200g of it before Evan spotted him and chased him off. Naturally, he came back, staying just out of reach but coming close enough to make it clear that nothing would be sacred. We built a cairn of plastic to keep our food safe, but in the night he returned and pulled that to pieces, rummaged through it and helped himself to what he wanted, using his beak to zip open cartons and packets as if they were nothing. In total he scoffed:

600g of cheese
half a pound of butter
a tube of condensed milk.

Now, given that NZ doesn't have mammals, I'd be keen to know where kea got their taste for dairy products. Anyway, we didn't see him again after that. I know what eating all that after living on nothing but mountain fare would do to my insides, and I suspect our wee friend spent the rest of our time there sleeping of the mother of all stomach aches. Hence the name.

Also, I'm alive. So are all the deer. More photos of scenery and stuff later.

Comments:

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From:t_c_da
Date:October 7th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC)
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I'd suspect that a cairn of stones may have been more efficient at keeping Gutsache away from your larder, but it would have to have been substantial, and a right pain to get anything out of.

Keas look fine, but aren't all that friendly towards supplies, or anything else for that matter...
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From:tatjna
Date:October 7th, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC)
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And would have involved a trip or two in the truck, because weirdly for a South Island mountain setting, there were no handy stones of any real size with which to build cairns within 200m of our site.
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From:fbhjr
Date:October 7th, 2014 10:30 pm (UTC)
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Sorry it ate all your food.
But, to me it seems really cool!
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From:tatjna
Date:October 7th, 2014 10:32 pm (UTC)
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That's the weird thing - it didn't eat all our food. It left the bacon, the sausages, the spinach, and a whole lot of oranges, apples, bananas, and grapes, along with all our bread. It only targeted the dairy products and completely ignored anything that I would have thought a parrot might like to eat.

Kea are weird.
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From:tyellas
Date:October 7th, 2014 10:45 pm (UTC)
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The kea's honing in on your highest-fat foods, dairy or not, reminds me of how certain sharks will pick their prey based on fat content.
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From:pundigrion
Date:October 7th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
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Dang, and even bear bagging wouldn't work on something with wings!
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From:tatjna
Date:October 7th, 2014 11:01 pm (UTC)
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They are strong enough to work the handles on chillybin lids too, and smart enough to undo buckles.

If we were properly kea-prepared, we would have had a bin with a hasp and padlock.
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From:pundigrion
Date:October 7th, 2014 11:06 pm (UTC)
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In places with really bad bear problems, they require people to use bear canisters like these: http://www.bearvault.com/

Somehow I can sea a kea just going along with their beak like a can opener on one though!
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From:dianavilliers
Date:October 7th, 2014 11:17 pm (UTC)
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Reckon that even if you had a padlock, you'd have to keep a good eye on the key.
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From:villagecharm
Date:October 8th, 2014 12:43 am (UTC)
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Holey moley, that is one hungry bird. And, apparently, very much dairy-focused.
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From:ecosopher
Date:October 8th, 2014 03:21 am (UTC)
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Haha, I read the name in German. Gut-sache (good... thing/object. It didn't really make much sense, actually! The English name is much better!)

Look forward to the pictures!

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From:meathiel
Date:October 8th, 2014 07:04 am (UTC)
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Oh - I didn't know that keas were litte thiefs ...
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From:siduri
Date:October 8th, 2014 12:15 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that is some bird...!
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From:tatjna
Date:October 8th, 2014 08:23 pm (UTC)
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I concur, on both counts. They also like to nick parts off cars for fun and probably not profit.
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From:kishenehn
Date:October 10th, 2014 06:26 pm (UTC)
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Now there's an animal with good taste! :)
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From:meri_sielu
Date:October 11th, 2014 12:14 pm (UTC)
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I have no words for how much I freaking love these birds! Ever since I first knew of them I've wanted to meet one, I finally did at Tropical Bird Gardens on Tuesday and they were amazing. I could tell hell intelligent he was, he was scoping me out and working out how he could get to everything I had in my hands.... really amazing bird. He let me scritch his neck but he did give me a bit of a nip and yeah it hurt a lot.... surprisingly for how hard he bit I came away with barely a scratch. I think he just wanted the buttons on my coat! :P
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