Published September 27, 2017 - 10:58am
HILO — Six young Alala — critically endangered Hawaiian crows — were released Wednesday into Puu Makaala Natural Area Reserve on the Big Island.
The first group of birds: two females and four males took some time to emerge from the aviary where they had been temporarily housed and they appeared to show a natural curiosity for their surroundings. Plans are to release a second group of five birds: two females and three males in mid-October from the same release aviary.
Previously, in December, a reintroduction attempt was halted after challenges posed by winter storms and predation on Alala by Io, (Hawaiian hawk). The concerted reintroduction efforts, funded by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, San Diego Zoo Global, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have addressed those challenges by changing the timing of release to avoid winter storms, changing the release site location, releasing a social group of both males and females, and enhancing the “antipredator training program” to teach the released birds how to better respond to predators like Io.
A high mortality rate is associated with releasing species into the wild. This is especially true for species like Alala that have been in captivity for longer periods of time. A successful conservation breeding program gives managers the flexibility to adapt their management techniques to improve successful transition to the wild. Conservation breeding programs are key tools for recovering threatened and endangered species.