VOLCANO, Hawaii – The ‘alalā is one step closer to returning to the wild.
Five male Hawaiian crows are currently living in an aviary at the Pu’u Maka`ala Natural Area Reserve and are adjusting well to their new environment, according the San Diego Zoo Global’s Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program.
The birds, whose ancestors went extinct in the wild years ago, were moved to the aviary in mid-October, allowing them to acclimate to the sights and sounds of a Hawaiian forest.
“Decades of intensive management by the State Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, in stewardship with local conservation partners, have led to the preservation of some of the most intact native-dominated wet and mesic forest on windward Hawai`i Island, known as Pu`u Maka`ala Natural Area Reserve,” said Jackie Gaudioso-Levita, Project Coordinator of the ‘Alalā Project, in a media release.
“This reserve is the highest quality habitat and is the best place on the island of Hawai`i for the reintroduction of the ‘alalā,” added Donna Ball, Conservation Partnerships biologist, U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service. “Pu’u Maka`ala Natural Area Reserve has all the components for the survival of this species and soon it will also have the ‘alalā, a missing species of the ecosystem that has returned.”
The ‘alala has not flown free on Hawaii Island since 2002. The species was preserved only at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers managed by San Diego Zoo Global. The numbers grew to more than 100 individuals.
Now, conservationists are ready to put the birds back into their native forests. The Hawaii DLNR reports the release was originally scheduled to take place this month, the release was unexpectedly and cautiously postponed to ensure the transmitters that will track the birds could be properly refined.
“‘Alalā are very intelligent and precocious birds and are inclined to play with and manipulate new items, so our ability to observe their behaviors closely and give them more time allows us to make adjustments to the tracking systems we will be using once they are released,” said Bryce Masuda, conservation program manager of the Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program. “It is important for us to track these birds once they go out into the forest so that we can continue to support them as they explore their new home.”
On Saturday, Nov. 19, the DLNR ʻAlalā Project will hold a community celebration in advance of the first release of the crow back into the wild, to be scheduled in the next few weeks.
The public is invited to the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center at 76 Kamehameha Ave. in downtown Hilo from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Organizers promise “fun for the whole ‘ohana”; there will be videos, keiki activities and conservation information displays and booths.