Ajax, the kea conservation dog

Reader Mike Hannah, a professor of paleontology and evolution at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, sent me a link to this short (3½ minute) film about a man named Corey and his dog Ajax, who’s been trained to sniff out underground kea nests (he wears a muzzle). It’s all in the cause of conservation, for, as I wrote here, there are only between 1000 and 5000 of these magnificent birds left in the wild, and the number is dropping.  Corey and Ajax weigh and monitor the birds, though I guess then can’t save them from predators (probably stoats or brush-tailed possums).

Watch this on the big screen by clicking the “vimeo” icon in the lower right after you start the video.

I’m not a huge fan of d*gs, but I also recognize that they are wonderful companions for many people and, unlike cats, can actually help people do things (I love the contraband-sniffing beagles in airports).

The kea (Nestor notabilis) is the world’s only alpine parrot, and, as far as I know, the world’s only semi-carnivorous parrot (they are known to land on the backs of sheep, rip them open, and eat the meat beneath the wool). Here is one I saw in the “wild” (a car park near Arthur’s Pass) on my trip to New Zealand. It was a great find for me, since I spent an entire day before a kindly bus driver helped me locate this one (see post here for the story and more photos).


Nomming an apple in the car park (I didn’t give it to the bird). Note that it’s banded.

7 Comments

  1. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted August 12, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    …unlike cats, can actually help people do things…

    Cats, like dogs, can actually be trained to help people do things, but are not recognized as service animals under the ADA. This is the result of legal discrimination in favor of dogs, not a lack of capability in cats.

  2. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 12, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard of Ajax, but didn’t know about this wonderful film. Thanks!

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Here is Corey Mosen Photography:
    https://www.facebook.com/Corey-Mosen-Photography-150774434985237/

    I read that Corey GPS-logs the Kea burrow locations. A bit risky going into those burrows – what if he gets trapped? Surely the Keas will come out to him if he proffers food? And if a no show he could use a spy snake cam [fibre optics] to see if the burrow is empty.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted August 12, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I love the contraband-sniffing beagles in airports

    Another reason why a beagle should be the official mascot of this website. The first being, The Beagle.

  5. Posted August 12, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Bloddy hell! great office he and his pal work in…
    i felt his pangs of sadness when finding an empty burrow (or was it the music?) it did end on a happier note.
    NZ has a lot of species at high risk due to aggressive introduced predators.
    Oh well, it’s an election year, perhaps we could signal our dissatisfaction with the current efforts. The Greens are pushing for a huge funding and resource increase for the Dept of Conservation.

  6. rickflick
    Posted August 12, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful birds and a noble dog.

  7. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted August 12, 2017 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic film. I’m so sad about the plight of the kea. Many years ago when walking the Routeburn Track I was sitting on the grass next to Routeburn Falls with my legs outstretched when a kea hopped up and started to explore my walking boots. I do have photos somewhere! We were advised that when leaving our boots out to dry outside the huts to ensure that they were enclosed in the veranda to avoid having them eaten by the keas that lived near the huts (and enjoyed themselves sliding down the roof when no boots were available.)


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