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‘Alalā Reintroduction Project Planning Further Releases After Recent Challenges – Birds Likely Killed By Hawaiian Hawk

Next Release Group to Receive Additional Predator-Aversion Training

Reintroduction efforts for the ʻAlalā, the native Hawaiian crow, began in December of last year with the release of five ʻAlalā into a Hawai‘i Island State Natural Area Reserve. Sadly, three birds did not survive, and the remaining two were brought back into captivity.

Members of The ‘Alalā Project say that the reintroduction of captive-raised birds without the benefit of experienced ‘Alalā already in the wild is very challenging. Biologists around the world say releases like this are usually marked with fits and starts, and that reintroduction success is not usually seen before multiple releases. Nēnē, the native Hawaiian goose, once had a population of only 30 birds and was part of a captive breeding program. “The recovery of Nēnē took over five decades of conservation actions to achieve, and while there are now over 3,000 birds in the wild, Nēnē populations still require active management to persist,” said Joey Mello, Hawai’i Branch DOFAW Wildlife Program Manager (East Hawai’i).

Despite the temporary setback, preparations are underway for the release of the next group of ‘Alalā. Nine birds are now in a flight aviary that was constructed in the State’s Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve; three more birds will be moved there soon. All of these birds are healthy and are checked and fed daily. Project team members closely observe their foraging skills, behaviors, and social interactions. The ‘Alalā Project anticipates the release of these 12 birds later this year.

Necropsies on the three ‘Alalā released last December indicate that none of the crows died due to disease exposure. Necropsy (autopsy for animals) results indicate that two of the birds were likely killed by another endangered bird, the ‘Io or native Hawaiian hawk. ‘Io are known to prey upon other birds – such is the circle of life in the wild. The third bird appears to have died from natural circumstances that led to poor physical condition.

Prior to any release, candidate birds undergo extensive training and conditioning to best ensure their long-term survival in the forest. This includes predator aversion training. The project team has consulted with world-renown predator aversion training specialists and is now focusing on making improvements to that training to give the released ‘Alalā a better chance of avoiding ‘Io.

The three ‘Alalā that died were named ‘Ike, Kau’ikauikalani, and Pewa. The necropsies were conducted by the San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG), which operates Hawaiʻi bird conservation centers on Hawai‘i Island and on Maui. The ‘Alalā were offspring of birds brought into captivity over a decade ago, around the time that the last remaining bird went extinct in the wild in 2002.

The ‘Alalā Project is comprised of more than a half dozen state and federal agencies, non-government agencies, and private landowners, that collectively and successfully have hatched more than 200 ‘Alalā at the SDZG bird conservation centers. The ‘Alalā Project is just one of many projects across the state committed to native species conservation. Together, these efforts protect and preserve the incredible and unique biodiversity of our islands.

Hawaii Gets Federal Money to Protect Crows, Hawks and Snails

Imperiled species will benefit from a total of $5.1 million in grants to 11 states through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s competitive State Wildlife Grants (SWG) program. The grants, which focus on large-scale conservation projects yielding measurable results, will be matched by more than $3.1 million in non-federal funds from states and their partners for projects that work to conserve and recover Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their habitats.

Shown: Achatinella bulimoides. This snail was thought to be extinct for the past 20 years until the Army rediscovered it in Oahu's Ko'olau Mountains.

Shown: Achatinella bulimoides. This snail was thought to be extinct for the past 20 years until the Army rediscovered it in Oahu’s Ko’olau Mountains.

“The projects funded by these grants target some of the most imperiled species and habitats in the United States,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “These projects are receiving funding because they are tied to well-thought-out conservation plans that identify the highest-priority areas where we can make the biggest difference for imperiled species.”

HAWAII FUNDING:

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife
Title: Creating Capacity to Restore a Self-Sustaining Wild Population of ‘Alala (Corvus hawaiiensis) to Hawai’i Island

Goals and Objectives: A broad coalition of private and federal partners working under the leadership of Hawai’i State Department of Land and Natural Resources will collaborate to protect and restore the Hawaiian Crow, or ‘Alala, which has been federally listed as an endangered species since 1967. The partners will establish field aviaries at proposed ‘Alala release sites and keep the sites free of ungulates, predators, and habitat-altering weeds. The long-term goal of the effort is to establish a viable wild population of the species through the release of captive-bred birds. A key partner in this project is the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

Federal Funds Requested: $248,524; Non-Fed Match: $150,000

Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife

Title:  Initiating Landscape-Scale Conservation Management of Ka’u Forest Reserve

Goals and Objectives: Hawai’i State Department of Land and Natural Resources will implement critical conservation actions within a 2,000-acre management unit of the Ka’u Forest Reserve. The work will address key threats to 18 SGCN, including 12 federally-listed endangered species such as the ‘Io or Hawaiian Hawk (Buteo solitarius). This broad partnership effort includes many private, state, and federal partners working together to protect imperiled species within a Priority Ecosystem Conservation Area—one of the most diverse and intact forests on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Conservation actions include fencing and ungulate control, invasive plant control, and habitat restoration.

Federal Funds requested: $250,000; Non-Federal match: $125,000

Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife

Title: Management Actions to Prevent the Extinction of Rare Hawaiian Land Snails

Goals and Objectives: The Hawai’i Division of Forestry and Wildlife will partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a U.S. Army Garrison, and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa to implement conservation efforts targeting 41 snail species of the federally-listed genus Achatinella as well as five extremely rare species in the family Amastridae. The partners’ strategy includes release of captive-bred snails into natural habitat protected by predator exclusion fencing in the Ko’olau Mountains of O’ahu. Other actions include population surveys, monitoring, and predator control.

Federal Funds Requested: $249,952; Non-Fed Match: $87,483

The SWG funds will benefit a variety of species and habitats: In North Carolina and South Carolina, partners’ work will help inform decision-making and management for the robust redhorse and up to 52 additional fishes, mussels and crayfish.  In Minnesota, SWG funds will support conservation actions to benefit the imperiled wood turtle, the rare smooth softshell turtle, the Blandings turtle and other turtle species of greatest conservation need. SWG funding also will be used by Iowa, Missouri and Illinois to conserve and improve habitat for the greater prairie-chicken as well as a range of other bird and butterfly SGCN. For more information about each of the grant projects, visit http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/SWG/SWG2013FundedProjects.pdf

SWG-funded projects implement strategies and actions to conserve SGCN as identified in approved State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plans (also known as State Wildlife Action Plans). Funding for the grants comes from Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations.

“We appreciate the strong ties formed by state agencies and their partners to protect these imperiled wildlife species and their habitats,” said Hannibal Bolton, the Service’s Assistant Director for Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration. “These partnerships are critical to the on-the-ground success of these projects.”

All 50 states and six territorial wildlife agencies have approved State Wildlife Action Plans that collectively provide a nationwide blueprint for actions to conserve SGCN. The plans were created through a collaborative effort among state and federal agencies, biologists, conservationists, landowners, sportsmen and -women and the general public.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) is a 75-year partnership to benefit fish and wildlife and provide Americans with access to the outdoors through a self-imposed investment paid by manufacturers and users of gear bought by anglers, boaters, hunters and shooters and managed by federal and state fish and wildlife agencies. Fishing and hunting licenses and motorboat fuel taxes also support fish and wildlife. For 75 years, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program has provided more than $14 billion for fish and wildlife, supplied jobs for many Americans and benefited local economies through boating, fishing, hunting and shooting activities.