30 Jul 2012

Kea repellant could stop attacks on sheep

12:08 pm on 30 July 2012

A trial to deter kea from attacking sheep on high country farms appears to be having the desired effect.

Conservationists have been looking into whether a non-toxic repellant which makes the birds feel queasy could put them off seeing sheep as a food source.

Kea are notorious for attacking sheep - sometimes killing them - and the situation can get worse in winter when food is scarce.

Kea Conservation Trust chair Tamsin Orr-Walker says the repellant makes the kea feel sick and the idea is they will start to associate that feeling with the sheep.

Ms Orr-Walker says the birds are very intelligent and it could take some time to convince them to stop attacking sheep.

The birds are protected by law but between 1860 and 1970, when there was a bounty on the alpine parrot, more than 150,000 were killed.