Keeping kea entertained: a survey of current enrichment practices

Rogelio Rodriguez Lopez, Andrew Kennedy, Michael Mendl, Susan Dow, Suzanne Held

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstract


Environmental enrichment is classified as nutritional, sensorial, physical, social or occupational. Zoos often rely on foraging enrichment due to its compatibility with feeding procedures. Kea (Nestor notabilis) are alpine parrots from New Zealand known for their curiosity, neophilia and good performance during physical tasks. In captivity, kea are prone to developing abnormal behaviours. From a sample of 37 birds, 50% displayed stereotypies. The species husbandry manual recommends “highly variable, evolving and adaptable” enrichment programs to prevent the development of these behaviours.

An online survey was distributed to worldwide kea holders to examine enrichment protocols. A convenience sample of six zoos was selected for one-day visits to document their enrichment routine. The survey included 15 questions on flock demographics, physical environment, husbandry, enrichment types utilised and frequency of provision. Data on 192 kea housed in 65 aviaries at 55 different zoos were obtained (almost 80% of the captive population reported in 2015). Many zoos (49%) offer daily enrichment. Only 15.4% of the
aviaries were provided with all five enrichment types; one zoo reported using only one category. Forty percent of zoos provided four of the five enrichment
categories. The most common enrichment objects included toys (for pets or
children), natural items (logs and branches), puzzles and boxes. One respondent
included snow as enrichment and, elsewhere, on-going cognitive research was
mentioned as enriching.

Results showed there is scope to increase non-foraging enrichment
opportunities, especially sensorial, for kea. Further research should be directed
towards examining kea’s enrichment preferences as well as incorporating
appropriate cognitive challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Publication statusUnpublished - 28 May 2016
EventUK and Ireland Regional Environmental Enrichment Conference - Fota Wildlife Park, Cork, Ireland
Duration: 22 May 201625 Nov 2016
Conference number: 6


ConferenceUK and Ireland Regional Environmental Enrichment Conference
Abbreviated titleREEC

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