‘Alalā Project to Send Two Hawaiian Crow to Big Island Zoo
Two ‘Alalā, also known Hawaiian Crow, are headed to a domesticated setting on the Big Island to serve as educators of sorts.
Next week, Pano Pau and Loli‘ana will begin greeting visitors to the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens with their distinctive calls and their curious looks. The young male birds will be ambassadors for the endangered species.
“We are honored to bring a symbol of resilience, collaboration, and dedication to our Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Garden in Hilo,” said Hawai‘i Mayor Mitch Roth.
Rachel Kingsley, the education and outreach specialist for The ‘Alalā Project, said, “This is going to be a great opportunity for everyone to see the ʻalalā in person. It is a great chance to get more people to become aware of the ‘alalā and who they are and see such a really amazing bird, an amazing species that you might not be able to ever see again.”
For many years a conservation breeding program, managed by San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, has been propagating ‘alalā. The partners of The ‘Alalā Project have attempted to reintroduce ‘alalā into native forests, after the last bird in the wild was spotted decades ago. The population grew to the point where in 2016, forest introduction efforts were started. A number of birds were reintroduced between 2016 and 2019 into the Pu’u Maka’ala Natural Area Reserve.
“With those release efforts, we learned many lessons. Unfortunately, we were unable to continue those release efforts primarily due to increased predation threats by ‘io, or the Hawaiian Hawk, which is the ‘alalā’s natural predator,” Kingsley explained. “So, the program has been taking a step back, looking at the next steps, and trying to determine what’s next for the species.”
At the Hawai‘i County owned and operated Pana‘ewa Zoo, visitors can see, hear, and learn more about the species. ‘Alalā, like all crows, are considered highly intelligent, social, and curious. The new ‘alalā exhibit will help tell the story of these birds, only found in Hawai‘i, as well as the story of conservation reintroduction efforts happening for multiple species around the islands.
Kingsley concluded, “We hope visitors will gain a better understanding of the importance of ‘alalā out in the forest. They have a unique role, including being ‘builders of the forest’ as they spread seeds across the landscape.”
The zoo has been closed for renovations for nearly a year. Improvements included the construction of the new exhibit, which was funded by The Friends of the Panaʻewa Zoo. All exhibit signage was created using funds donated to The ʻAlalā Project. Hours are 9 am to 4 pm daily, except for Christmas and New Years Day. Admission is free.