East Hawaii News

Funding to Aid `Alala, Other Endangered Hawai`i Species

October 10, 2013, 3:21 PM HST
* Updated October 10, 3:46 PM
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The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has received a $1.7 million federal grant for projects designed to protect endangered species in Hawai`i, including the `alala or Hawaiian crow.

That $248,000 portion of the funding is for initial actions designed to lead to a self-sustaining population of the `alala, which currently can be found in two captive breeding facilities, one on the Big Island and the other on Maui.

Once widespread on the Big Island, the current population numbers around 95 birds.

‘Alala, which were once commonplace in many areas of the Big Island, have not been seen in the wild since 2002 when biologists captured the last member of a flock of the rare crows in a South Kona forest that had been bred in captivity and previously released.

The `alala were brought back from the wild after efforts to re-establish the ‘alala in the wild had suffered a variety of setbacks. The captive-bred birds were suffering from diseases, including one spread by feral cats, and they were also falling prey to the Hawaiian hawk or ‘io, which itself is a threatened species. Efforts to relocate ‘io from the ‘alala’s area were unsuccessful.

Re-establishing `alala habitat is a component of the Ka`u Forest Reserve Management Plan, which calls for fencing of prospective release sites as well as control of feral cats and other predators. The bird lived in the wild in Ka`u forests as recently as the 1970s.

Other funding in the grant included $578,000 for acquisition of Kalauao Valley in the central Koolau Mountains of Oahu “to provide additional public access and conserve and protect endangered species,” according to a press release from a spokeswoman for the state Senate.

The grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service also contained $250,000 for conservation efforts for 41 endangered species of Hawaiian snails.

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