East Hawaii News

Jason Scott Lee is Voice of Palila in PSA

December 11, 2013, 4:09 PM HST
* Updated December 11, 4:10 PM
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Jason Scott Lee has lent his voice to a new public service announcement aimed at raising public awareness of the plight of the endangered palila bird.

The 30-second clip, which began running statewide this week, is a joint effort of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the American Bird Conservancy.

Lee, the star of 25 motion pictures, was raised in Hawai`i and currently lives on the Big Island. He provides the voice of the palila in a brief overview on the causes of the bird’s declining population and efforts to save it.

Jason Scott Lee, from his Facebook page.

Jason Scott Lee, from his Facebook page.

Palila, a type of Hawaiian honeycreeper, are currently found only in a small patch of mamane forest on Mauna Kea. Its current population is estimated at less than 2,200.

Wildlife officials say the palila’s downward population slide is a result of habitat degradation, predation, and severe drought conditions that are causing reductions in food supply.

The native mamane and naio forests upon which the palila depends have been degraded by non-native feral sheep, goats, cattle, and hybrid mouflon sheep over the past 200 years. The palila once lived across most of the Island of Hawai‘i, but its range has shrunk to roughly 5% of its historical size.

“Not many people are familiar with what a palila is and why they are worth saving. That’s because they live in remote and rugged terrain that few people ever visit,” said Robert Stephens, coordinator for the Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project.

“What makes Palila special is that they are a classic example of the spectacular evolutionary process that occurred in the remoteness of the Hawaiian Islands,” Stephens said. “They survived in the dry forests for thousands of years by adapting to a food source, mamane pods, that is toxic to other wildlife. Palila belong here and are one of the things that makes Hawai‘i one of the most amazing places on the planet.”

The clip is available for viewing at RestoreMaunaKea.org.

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