Conservationist Corey and his dog Ajax spend their days walking the mountainous lands of South Island, New Zealand, searching for an elusive bird.
As the pair make their way among the mossy forest trees, suddenly, Ajax stops, his nose pointing down into a hole under some rocks.
“Good boy!” says Corey, before he disappears head-first into the hole.
He comes out holding his prize—a large green parrot. A kea.
You’ve probably never heard of a kea. It only lives in the alpine and forested areas of the South Island of New Zealand, and they are rare—very rare. So much so that they are becoming extinct.
“It’s really sad when you come across a kea that you’ve been monitoring and watching it grow, and all the sudden you get there and it’s not alive,” said Corey in a National Geographic video.
“It gets you down because you think about what’s happening to hundreds of kea every year all across South Island. It does make you think, you know? How can we win this battle?“
Ajax is a one of a kind dog that is doing his bit to conserve the kea.
Ajax the border collie is truly one of a kind. He is an incredibly intelligent dog and is specially trained in helping locate the disappearing population of kea.
The duo has been together since Ajax was just a puppy. “I’ve trained him to help me find kea,” said Corey. “I guess that means he’s the only dog in the country, and in the world, who does this.”
It’s no easy job for any human, or dog, for that matter. The endangered kea is very elusive and lives in some of the most remote regions of South Island…often underground.
“He walks around the forest with me all day, he rides in the helicopter, he comes on boats, and he’s been caving,” Corey said. “He comes everywhere with me.”
He uses his keen sense of smell to search out the kea.
We’re not sure if Corey just got lucky to find such a smart and adventurous dog, or if he is just that good of a trainer. We’re guessing it took a little bit of both to be able to do what he does.
“He’s got a good keen nose and he lets me know if there’s a kea close by,” explained Corey. “Or, if they’re still in the hole he’ll indicate by standing there, hopefully with his nose directly in the hole!”
When they find a kea they weigh and measure it and record its location.
And, unusually for animals, they love interacting with humans, which can get them into trouble if they cause damage or eat something they shouldn’t.
Corey (and Ajax, of course) want people to look at keas as an important species.
“I want stories like this about Ajax and me to make people aware of how really special they are,” said Corey.
And who wouldn’t want to spend their days in nature with their best friend doing work they love.
“It’s really rewarding and every day is an adventure. It’s helping the world from our little corner of the globe.”