Three Laysan Albatross Killed on North Shore of Kauai by Loose Dogs

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is issuing a reminder to pet owners to keep all dogs on leash, after three Laysan Albatross (or Moli) were killed on the North shore of Kaua‘i this weekend in the latest incident where albatross have been slaughtered by loose dogs. The dead albatross, which have only just started returning to Kaua‘i after many months out at sea, were found by tourists walking near Moloa‘a Bay.

Photo credit: Gina Ord (Dead Albatross)

Photo credit: Gina Ord (Dead Albatross)

The Laysan Albatross is listed as near threatened under the IUCN Red List and is a federally protected species. They have only recently recolonized Kaua‘i after a lengthy period of absence and their population has slowly increased on the island in recent years. They face a number of threats including by catch in long-line fisheries, ingestion of plastics and predation by introduced mammals, particularly dogs. In recent years there have been a number of incidents where dogs have gotten into albatross colonies and killed large numbers of nesting birds.

“Yet again, protected seabirds have been killed on Kaua‘i by dogs that have been allowed to roam off their leads,” said Thomas Ka‘iakapu, DLNR Kaua‘i Wildlife manager. “Considering that these albatross can live to be over 60 years old, it is particularly tragic to see them torn apart by dogs simply because a dog owner has been irresponsible.”

Two of the three birds were marked with unique identification codes. One, KP341, was a male bird that had been banded in 2007. It was one of a pair of albatross that are known to be the first pair to lay their egg on Kaua‘i each year. The second bird, P009, was banded at the Pacific Missile Range Testing Facility on the South Shore.

“We are asking dog owners to be responsible with their pets when walking along our coastal areas”, said Ka‘iakapu. “The message is simple – keep your dogs under control and on their leads. That way we can prevent these kinds of incidents from happening over and over again.”

 

World’s Oldest Known Wild Bird Hatches Another Chick

A  Laysan albatross known as “Wisdom” – believed to be at least 62 years old – has hatched a chick on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge for the sixth consecutive year. Early Sunday morning, February 3, 2013, the chick was observed  pecking its way into the world by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Pete Leary, who said the chick appears healthy. Wisdom was first banded in 1956, when she was incubating an egg in the same area of the refuge. She was at least five years old at the time.

Wisdom and her chick

Wisdom and her chick.  Photo Credit: J. Klavitter/USFWS

“Everyone continues to be  inspired by Wisdom as a symbol of hope for her species,” said Doug Staller, the Fish and Wildlife Service Superintendent for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Monument), which includes Midway Atoll NWR.

Staff and volunteers stationed on Midway are responsible for monitoring the health of the beautiful seabirds that arrive every year  by the hundreds of thousands to nest. Upon the seabirds’ arrival, field staff  monitor them and gather information for one of the longest and oldest continuous survey data sets for tropical seabirds in the world.

Wisdom has worn out five bird bands since she was first banded by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Chandler Robbins in 1956. Robbins estimated Wisdom to be at least 5 years old at the time, since this is the earliest age at which these birds breed. Typically, they breed at 8 or 9 years of age after a very involved courtship lasting over several years so Wisdom could be even older than 62.

Wisdom preens her chick. Photo credit: J. Klavitter/USFWS

Wisdom preens her chick. Photo credit: J. Klavitter/USFWS

“As Wisdom rewrites the record books, she provides new insights into the remarkable biology of seabirds,” said Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD. “It is beyond words to describe the amazing accomplishments of this wonderful bird and how she demonstrates the value of bird banding to better understand the world around us. If she were human, she would be elible for Medicare in a couple years yet she is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean. Simply incredible.”

Peterjohn said Wisdom has likely raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life, though the number may well be higher because experienced parents tend to be better parents than younger breeders. Albatross lay only one egg a year, but it takes much of a year to incubate and raise the chick. After consecutive years in which they have successfully raised and fledged a chick, the parents may take the occasional next year off from parenting. Wisdom is known to have nested in 2006 and then every year since 2008.

Sue Schulmeister, Manager of the Midway Atoll NWR, said, “Wisdom is one is one of those incredible seabirds that has provided the world valuable information about the longevity of these beautiful creatures and reinforces the importance of breeding adults in the population. This information helps us measure the health of our oceans that sustain albatross.”

Almost as amazing as being a parent at 62 is the number of miles Wisdom has likely logged – about 50,000 miles a year as an adult – which means that Wisdom has flown at least two million to three million miles since she was first banded. Or, to put it another way, that’s four to six trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again, with plenty of miles to spare.

Two Dogs on Kauai Kill 8 Albatrosses

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is reminding the public on Kaua‘i to keep their pet dogs under control due to the recent killing of 8 Laysan albatrosses on the north shore by two dogs.

Five other birds survived that initial attack and were taken to the Kaua‘i Humane Society for treatment and rehabilitation. One of the injured birds eventually succumbed to its injuries. Two rehabilitated birds were recently taken to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge where they are receiving daily care and feeding.

Seabird volunteers and DLNR are diligently working to capture the loose dogs and locate their owner. Information fliers are being disseminated through the community to inform them of the incident and to remind people to properly restrain the pets and to call the DLNR conservation hotline at 634-DLNR.

“Kaua‘i’s north shore is an outstanding area for the recovery of native seabirds such as the Laysan albatross. Pet owners are as responsible as their pets for these senseless killings,” said William J. Aila, Jr. DLNR chairperson.

“Each year, seabirds are killed by dogs and cats because they retain their natural instincts to kill. This is why it is important for everyone to play their part to protect wildlife. “We ask the public to please keep your pets leashed while on walks, and kenneled or fenced at home. Please prevent your pets from roaming freely, especially near coastal areas where seabirds are known to nest on the ground,” Aila said.

In the late afternoon on Friday, June 22, seabird volunteer Kim Rogers, a wildlife monitor, discovered the dead and injured albatross and contacted DLNR – Division of Forestry and Wildlife and Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement to rescue the injured birds and search for the loose dogs.

The following day, another Laysan albatross chick and three wedge-tailed shearwaters were found dead on adjacent private property. Based on decomposition of these birds, the killing may also have happened the same day as the first incident.

One of the property managers has patched a gap in a fence between his and the adjacent property to keep the dogs from entering the nesting area. Live capture traps from DLNR, USFWS and the Kaua‘i Humane Society are being deployed around the nesting areas and monitored by volunteers.

A photo of one of the two dogs seen on the property near a chick has been distributed to neighbors to aid in identification. It is hoped that these steps will help to make this nesting area as safe as possible for future nests and chicks.

Seabirds are protected by both federal and state laws and violators may be subject to criminal petty misdemeanor fines under HRS Ch. 183D-62 for a first conviction of not less than $200 and/or imprisonment of not more than one year. In addition, violators could face civil administrative penalties for first violation of a fine up to $10,000 and an administrative fine of up to $5,000 for each specimen of wildlife taken, killed, injured or damaged.