Created on Friday, 08 August 2014 18:07
Written by San Diego Zoo Global
San Diego, California - Partially feathered and squawking for meals, `alalā chicks at San Diego Zoo Global's Keauhou Bird Conservation Center keep animal care staff busy. With nine new chicks being hand-reared this year, the rare bird's population now numbers 115 at the Center.
`Alalā (also known as Hawaiian crows) are extinct in the wild, the remaining population is managed through a collaborative effort by the Hawai`i Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP) on the big island of Hawaii. The chicks are fed and cared for by animal care staff they never see to ensure they do not imprint on humans.
"`Alalā are very intelligent birds and very susceptible to imprinting," said Byce Masuda, program manager for San Diego Zoo Global. "We use puppets to hand-rear and feed the birds when they are young to keep them from imprinting onto us so they will act naturally as adults."
The last `alalā were recorded in their Hawaiian forest natural habitat in 2002 where they were threatened by habitat destruction, introduced predators and avian disease. The HEBCP has been working with the species in managed care since 1993, bringing the population from a low of only 20 individuals to 115.