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50 Nene Killed by Vehicles on Kaua’i Highways in the Last Two Years

In the final weeks of 2016, eight Nene (Hawaiian Goose) have been killed by vehicles along a two mile stretch of the Kaumuali‘i Highway in Kekaha. Nene are only found in Hawai‘i and are listed as endangered due to their low number, with an estimated 1,200 remaining on Kaua‘i. In the past two years 50 Nene have been struck and killed by cars across the roadways of Kaua‘i. Typically the majority of vehicle strikes occur in Hanalei and Kilauea, however the most recent strikes are occurring on the west side of the island.

It is believed that 25,000 Nene were present in the Hawaiian Islands when Captain Cook arrived in 1778. By the mid 1940’s only 50 birds remained. Since then, through captive breeding efforts and extensive predator control the population is beginning to grow with almost 3,000 birds statewide. Even with ongoing conservation efforts Nene are still considered to be the rarest goose species in the world.

Nene begin building nests and laying eggs as early as August although the greatest number of road strikes occur  between December and April during the peak of the breeding and molting season. It is during this time of year that both adults and goslings are flightless for a period of time and are especially vulnerable. Nene are often seen foraging along the edges of highways  and ditches as a result of regular mowing and runoff from the pavement creating especially desirable grass in these areas.

Jean Olbert, a Nene biologist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) said, “With recent rains on the west side, reports of Nene crossing the highway in Kekaha have increased dramatically. Nene regularly cross the road in the evening and early morning hours making it even more important to be on the lookout during these times. Nene remain with their mates for life and travel with their families during this time of year. After a Nene is killed on a road the remaining family members are often unwilling to leave the body, resulting in multiple birds being killed over a short period of time.”

Nene crossing signs have recently been posted by the Department of Transportation along the Kaumuali‘i Highway in Kekaha and the Kuhio Highway in Hanalei in regions where birds frequently cross roadways. DLNR/DOFAW is working with county and state transportation departments and federal partners to potentially add more signs in high-strike zones. Drivers are asked to please slow down and be extra attentive in these areas, especially in low light conditions.

To report an injured or dead bird on Kaua‘i please contact the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife at 808-274-3433.

National Attention on Monk Seal Issue Highlights Need for Local Program

Response to New York Times Magazine article: Local fishermen working together with the Marine Conservation Institute to understand the issues and help create an attitude of coexistence.

A New York Times Magazine article investigating the monk seal killings on Kaua‘i and Moloka‘i in 2011 and 2012 has revived attention to the conflict over the protection of this highly endangered marine mammal.  In “Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?” writer Jon Mooallem, describes the complex conservation issues that plague the island of Kaua‘i, including conflict over the protection of shearwater birds and nene goose.

Monk Seal

The Marine Conservation Institute, a non-profit organization, hopes its work on Kaua’i will help resolve the conflict over the seal. Marine Conservation Institute has been working with Kaua‘i residents to investigate and resolve the social struggles prompted by federal conservation actions on the Garden Island.

“We are community advocates,” explains fisherman Matt Sproat, who works with the Marine Conservation Institute in an effort to understand the ongoing conflict and create solutions that foster coexistence between local communities and monk seals.  Sproat continues, “We are here to listen to the community and work with the community, because we know that local fisherman and ocean users are just people like us who want to make sure their livelihoods and rights are protected.  We believe there is a way to balance protecting the livelihoods of local people with the needs of monk seals.”

Sproat and his team are currently conducting interviews and focus groups across Kaua‘i, gathering information for a report that aims to understand and address interactions between ocean users and monk seals.  The report will craft a number of recommendations for NOAA and DLNR  to help reduce and mitigate conflict, and improve government responsiveness to community needs and concerns.

“The people of Kaua‘i are good people.  They love their ‘āina and they love their ocean,” says Sproat.  He continues,   “We are here to work with the community in finding solutions that work for everybody, then we will advocate to see those solutions implemented at all levels of government.”

Residents interested in participating in the interviews or focus groups, or learning more about the project, should contact Matt Sproat.

The Marine Conservation Institute expects to have a draft of the report completed by Fall 2013.

About Marine Conservation Institute

Marine Conservation Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting marine ecosystems. We work with scientists, politicians, government officials and other organizations around the world to fashion sustainable solutions compatible with healthy, living oceans.

 

 

Mother Goose Killed in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park urges motorists to slow down and watch out for the endemic and federally endangered nēnē while driving on park roadways.

On Tuesday evening, a female Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis) died after being struck by a vehicle on Chain of Craters Road near Pauahi Crater. Her mate of 13 years escaped harm, but remains in the area.

Although nēnē can fly, they are often seen on the ground near roadways in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

The female, known as Green DU, was a consistent breeder, and successfully raised 24 goslings. She was hatched in captivity in the park in December 1991 and was released in March 1992.  Green DU was what wildlife biologists call a rare “double-clutch” breeder, who once reared two goslings to fledglings, then re-nested and raised an additional four goslings in a single breeding season.

“It is a shame that a nēnē with such a long and productive life had to die so tragically,” said Dr. Rhonda Loh, the park’s chief of resource management.

Nēnē is the Hawai‘i state bird.  About 200 nēnē thrive within Hawai‘i Volcanoes, and there are an estimated 2,000 birds statewide. It’s not unusual to encounter nēnē in the park during their nesting season, which runs from October through March, and they are frequently spotted along roadsides throughout the year. But geese can be anywhere, from sea level to the slopes of Mauna Loa.

Nēnē Crossing signs are posted along park roadsides in places nēnē frequent most, and information on the Hawai‘i’s largest native land animal can be found in the park’s visitor centers.

Nēnē are quite active in the late evening and early morning, and their grayish coloring makes them difficult to see during those hours. Park officials also caution visitors not to feed the geese because birds seeking handouts fall prey to oncoming vehicles. The equation is simple, sad, and all too often true: a fed nēnē equals a dead nēnē.