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Wellington Zoo’s bright and interactive kea experience

11 Jul 2019

New Zealand’s ample and versatile terrain means it is the perfect habitat for many species of wildlife, and its lack of large predatorial mammals has made it home to endangered birds that can’t be found anywhere else.

One of the many residents is the kea – the world’s only large alpine parrot, which can usually only be found in the Southern corners of New Zealand. Isthmus Group was contracted to build a walk-through kea enclosure within Wellington Zoo. With only 1000-1500 wild kea left in the world, the exhibit offers the public with a unique educational opportunity to interact with the parrot while providing the endangered species with a protected space to call home and a safe place for breeding.

The project involved extensive research into the creature’s natural habitat, as well as the need to include appropriate security features to protect it. The entrance to the aviary was designed to function as an airlock due to the mischievous nature of the parrots, while the netting was constructed from high-tensile metal with a separate hidden space built in should the bird need time away from its human visitors.

Choosing a colour palette to complement the enclosure was important not only for the visitor experience, but also the kea’s. Isthmus Group looked to Resene’s extensive range for their selections.

“The colours and plants chosen were heavily drawn on the kea’s natural alpine environment. Natural colours were chosen to make the kea feel at home whilst also hiding any cosmetic damage the kea might make,” Sophie Jacques of Isthmus Group explained.

To resemble farm buildings in Southern New Zealand, the Isthmus team opted for shades of red for the exit trap, choosing Resene Thunderbird to match the stables in the zoo’s ‘Meet the Locals’ Pohutukawa Farm. It’s a bright shade that stands out from the scenery, and ties-in with colours used for seating and signs throughout the experience.

Resene paints were chosen as for their low VOC rating and as a safe option to use around animals.

“Kea’s love to get their beaks into anything and everything, so it was important that we used non-toxic paints for this type of project,” Sophie says.

Finished in 2018, Wellington Zoo’s bright new kea enclosure enables visitors the opportunity to interact with New Zealand’s only native parrot. The Mountain Encounter walk-through aviary is painted Resene Thunderbird with roof and struts in Resene Fuscous Grey. The exterior roost additions are stained Resene Woodsman Dark Oak.

The world’s only alpine parrot, Kea’s are considered nationally endangered in the wild due to threats from predators and humans.

The new Kea enclosure was an extensive project, with multiple safety features put in place to protect the parrots. The exterior structural steel was finished in Resene Uracryl tinted Resene Fuscous Grey while the external doors to the entry and exit traps are in Resene Sonyx tinted Resene Black. The exterior roost walls are painted Resene Thunderbird and the roof and struts are painted Resene Fuscous Grey.

The Resene colour palette was selected based on colours that appear in the Kea’s natural environment.


design Isthmus Group

images David St. George