Lead shot use stops due to effect on kea

The Department of Conservation says it has stopped using lead shot in predator control in South Westland, after high levels of lead were found in kea.

Western South Island operations director Mark Davies said the use of lead shot was stopped in March, due to high levels of lead found in kea which were being monitored as part of the predator programme being carried out by Zero Invasive Predators in the Perth River Valley, near Whataroa.

The kea monitored were living in a remote area that had none of the usual sources of lead such as flashings and lead-head nails on huts and houses.

"These kea were likely consuming lead when they scavenged tahr carcases shot in control operations by DOC hunters," Mr Davies said.

In South Westland, ammunition with non-toxic copper and copper/tungsten projectiles was being used as a replacement for lead shot.

"The change does not have an impact on the welfare implications of the control operations."

DOC has moved to use only non-lead shot for all tahr culling operations and are looking at non-toxic options for shotguns, including bismuth and tungsten.

Mr Davies said kea were apparently attracted to eating lead because of its sweet taste.

- by Laura Mills

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