A unique canine works with a passionate conservationist to save the kea, an endangered parrot species found in the forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand.
His name is Ajax — and he is the only dog in the world that works to help protect an endangered species. The border collie goes everywhere with his human companion Corey, exploring forests, riding on helicopters, and even traveling through caves underground.
Keas are remarkably intelligent creatures, capable of solving logical puzzles in order to survive in their harsh mountain environments. They have even been filmed using tools. One of ten parrot species native to the area, the kea measures about 20 inches in length and weighs an average of two pounds. Keas are remarked for their olive green plumage and grey beak, the upper part of which is narrow and curved.
Current population estimates suggest there are between 3,000 and 7,000 kea birds remaining in the wild. The decline of the kea population began when the New Zealand government put a bounty on the birds as a result of their excessive preying on livestock. Hunters, however, roamed beyond affected farms and into the wilderness to hunt the birds. The bounty was finally lifted in 1970, but more than 150,000 kea birds had already been killed.
Keas are still susceptible to early predation but Ajax and Corey work together to help protect the remaining birds. Ajax is highly skilled at sniffing out keas with his nose and alerting Corey to their presence. Corey carefully studies and measures the individual birds before releasing them back into the wild. His goal is to make other people more aware of the kea and its special place in the mountains so that they might help restore the native population.
He constantly keeps Ajax by his side, making for a touching tale of a canine and human working together to conserve an endangered species.