Inquisitive, intelligent and incredibly cheeky – three words that sum up the four male kea that live in Auckland Zoo’s Te Wao Nui habitat! When Nauhea, Rob, Tapui and Tohu aren’t trilling or showing off their colourful plumage, you can often find them partaking in positive reinforcement training with their wonderful keepers.

Here, you can see keeper Debs practising target training with one of the boys. When he responds to prompts and puts his beak on certain spots, she rewards him with a tasty treat. This type of training is great because it helps our kea associate specific actions with something they want. Our keepers also practise stay and go commands and flight training with each kea. Not only do these activities enrich the kea, mentally and physically, they also allow our keepers to perform small, subtle health checks. When the kea run to a point, keepers can see if they’re moving as they should and when they’re munching on a treat, they can check their beaks are filed and healthy!


Positive reinforcement training with our kea!

Our bird keepers regularly practise enrichment training with the kea to ensure they keep their brains and bodies stimulated – even when they’re eating! The team often hang food from branches, hide snacks underground or bury them among stones to encourage digging.

Recently, our group of kea boys showed off their skills on The Project. Host Koana came to the zoo and saw our kea participating in training after a recent Auckland University study claimed kea are just as good at making reason-based predications as human toddlers and chimpanzees! If you missed it, see the full segment here!