I always collect photos of gorgeous NZ flora and fauna from calendars etc with the intention of using them in my artistic creations. I have successfully incorporated pictures of tuis and woodpigeons into Powertex wall art but I generally like to use wildlife that could be found naturally in that environment. My stack of pictures of beautiful native birds such as kea, kakapo and takahe was increasing without an obvious outlet.
So when my friend Chloe bought a cabin in the small alpine village of Arthur’s Pass in the Southern Alps, I knew I had the perfect recipient for some Powertex Wall Art Kea.
Kea (alpine parrots) are a nationally endangered taonga (natural treasure) species only found in alpine and bushline regions of the south island with an estimated population of only 5,000 birds. They can initially appear to be a quite boring olive green and grey colour but when they take flight you can see the most brilliant golden orange colour under its wings and when you look closer there are so many different colours in their feathers. They are amazing to watch in the air, chasing each other and doing spirals and loops. Kea are amongst the smartest animals in the world, scoring in the same range as the smartest primates and crows on tasks that require them to manipulate objects, make logical inferences or use tools to gain access to a reward.
Kea are also very cheeky birds, unafraid of humans and famous for their curious and playful behaviour, leading to their nickname of “the clown of the mountains”. They are quite naughty too. In the high country, any vehicle that is parked is fair game to have its rubber removed (windscreen wipers, window surrounds, antennas and anything else that isn’t securely attached). Hikers have to watch out for keas removing shoe laces or getting into their backpacks. Mountaineers can be kept awake by keas rolling stones down the metal roof of the high country huts.
Unfortunately kea are threatened from predation by introduced pest species – they are particularly vulnerable because they nest in cavities on the ground and spend lots of time on the ground exploring and foraging for food. Sadly they are also threatened by human impact, through feeding, accidents with vehicles and lead poisoning. Kea are opportunistic feeders with a particular liking for fatty foods, hence their interest in public rubbish dumps and discarded food at skifields. Their inquisitive and explorative behaviour can cause conflict with people, and damage to property especially around campsites and carparks. Despite being illegal, kea are still being deliberately shot. Buildings with lead nails and flashing are a problem as lead is attractive to kea because it is soft to chew and has a sweet taste to them.
There are several different groups that make it their mission to help save the kea, especially the Kea Conservation Trust, Arthur’s Pass Wildlife Trust and the Department of Conservation. Chloe has joined the different Trusts and often takes part in kea activities. When she is not at Arthur’s Pass, the Kea Conservation team use her cabin for doing their checks on the kea. So having kea-related art on the cabin walls is very suitable.
For more information on how to make the Powertex Wall Art see my previous posts – the method is the same so I won’t repeat it here.