Quietly working on 150 acres in Volcano, the staff and volunteers at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC) are successfully helping some endangered Hawaiian birds stay off the extinction list. They are not normally open to the public, but will be opening the doors of their educational areas for an annual open house on December 8, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Operated by The Zoological Society of San Diego, KBCC’s facility includes 64 ‘alala (Hawaiian crow, which is extinct in the wild); the Maui Parrotbill (an insect-eating honeycreeper); the palila (found only on the slopes of Mauna Kea); and the puaiohi (small Kaua‘i thrush)
Partnerships Help the Birds’ Survival
The ‘alala has been hard to breed in captivity, but a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife succeeded in producing 19 healthy chicks in 2011, which proved to be a record breaking year for their conservation efforts. As of November 2012, 109 individual ‘alalas now exist.
Between 1996 and 2011, the Center successfully hatched 395 nene chicks and also has released 442 of this endangered goose back into the wild on Maui, Kaua‘i and the Big Island. On Molokai, they started a brand-new nene population. Largely due to their efforts, the current nene population on all of the Hawaiian Islands now totals almost 2,000 birds.
Although this bird remains on the endangered species list, the Center is no longer breeding them. Christina Simmons of the San Diego Zoo explained, “We aren’t breeding nene because they are doing well out in the wild, our program was successful, and our partners are protecting and managing the wild flocks, which is a progression that occurs in successful programs.”