Sustainability and flying with keas

Sustainability and flying with keas

A unique skill set and can-do attitude saw Matthew Goodman following keas around the south island this year with a German film crew in tow.  

For the CPIT second year Bachelor of Sustainability and Outdoor Education student, it was a case of right place, right time, when a he met in Germany invited him to work on a documentary, filming New Zealand’s cheeky kea and the New Caledonian crow – two of the world’s most intelligent birds.

A unique skill set

Matt’s rock climbing and mountaineering experience in the south island meant he knew the terrain well. He was just the person the film crew needed. “I drove them everywhere, well, thousands of kilometres in two weeks, and we flew into some places too. There was a lot of organising and I was also second cameraman.”

Matt also works part time as a photographer, so adapting to film was not difficult. But scoping out territories and habitats was the bulk of Matt’s responsibility – in both New Zealand and New Caledonia. The resulting film, initially being released in Germany, explores bird behaviour and intelligence.


Keas versus crows

During six weeks of trekking around the Loyalty Islands with a guide in New Caledonia, Matt got to know the local crow very well. “They are unusual in that they make tools which they use for foraging.”

Is the New Caledonian crow smarter than the kea? “The crow is very precise, but the kea will try something just to get a response. The kea’s diet is so varied that they can, like us, get food in many different ways. So they have leisure time to fill – that’s the theory that is probably the most accurate for explaining some of their behaviour.”

Keas are famous for their curiosity and their appetite for ski bindings, windscreen wipers and anything else brought into their mountain habitats. A photograph in one Canterbury club field serves as a warning, reminding visitors to shut the windows, because one kea can inflict inordinate damage on a kitchen in one night if it gains access.

Gliding into the future

The highlight of the filming was the footage shot in August, by Matt, after a chance meeting with a paraglider. “There was a paraglider who said he had flown alongside kea. Paragliders fly with harrier hawks which can soar on thermals. Keas are not known for that, but because there are humans up there, they’re curious, they will try. I learned paragliding for that shot and on the last flight we had a kea at the wingtip.”

Matt’s adventures into documentary making will continue and are fully supported by his tutors. “Talking to Dave [Irwin], the tutor, if an opportunity comes up, he encourages you to take it. In the Outdoor Sustainability degree you learn a lot about human relations and professionalism and the documentary company said they will employ me again and again. There is a lot of self-directed learning. Certain papers are brilliant for environmental sustainability and making you aware of the way things are going; I’ve changed paths because of that.”

Matt’s experience has helped to convince him that his direction lies in visual communication to educate people about sustainability issues such as the Antarctic Treaty.

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