We went to the Willowbank Wildlife Preserve in Christchurch.
Driving there, it seemed like a completely harmless place. We drove through neighborhoods, for goodness sakes. The Willowbank driveway was right next to the driveway of a typical suburban house.
But inside the deceptively calm zoo lurked a wild, dangerous area.
First, there was the eel attack.
|"Tame" New Zealand freshwater eel jumps out of water to get food from Sarah and Anna.|
|Kumekume (fat-fat in Maori) domesticated feral pigs introduced to New Zealand by Maori.|
But they were relatively harmless compared to the kea.
|The dangerous kea bird. Note the evil, sharp, hooked beak.|
I had heard of the kea before coming to New Zealand. They are the world's only cold-weather-loving alpine parrot. They live at the Mt. Hutt ski area parking lot where they eat cars. Not like the Blondie song Rapture or anything. They aren't from Mars. They won't eat your head. They're just New Zealand parrots that eat cars.
They begin by eating the rubber off the windshield wipers. They treat it like licorice. If there aren't enough windshield wipers, they will move on to the rubber surrounding a side view mirror and even tires if they are desperate enough.
They had several keas at the Wildlife Preserve, kept carefully behind double-door security at all times. These are smart birds. They can learn to use tools, open doors, and even pick locks if necessary.
We went on a special guided night tour so that we could see kiwi birds, but our guide took us to see the keas on the way.
As our guide was feeding the keas some honey, Sarah began screaming very loudly. "It BIT me!" she screamed. "THAT BIRD BIT ME." She was almost in hysterics.
And it seriously bit her. Despite a thick jacket and two layers of clothing, the bird managed to break skin.
Fortunately for the bird, they're a protected species. Otherwise, I might just have throttled it, at my own peril.
But, Sarah's injury is healing nicely and our tour guide gave her a lollipop at the end. I think she will come to the point where she can tell this story herself with a smile on her face. Someday.