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Uēkahuna in HVNP Reopens After Nesting Nēnē Take Flight With Goslings

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A viewing area at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park has reopened after two nesting nēnē families moved to a new home with their goslings.

The parking lot and western viewing area at Uēkahuna was closed since early November to protect the nēnē. According to HVNP officials, a lifelong pair hatched three goslings and another pair also raised three goslings in the area. Both families have moved onward.

NPS Photo/J.Wei

“Your park sends out a big heartfelt mahalo nui loa (thank you very much) to everyone who helped protect these precious geese by not disturbing them and respecting the closure,” HVNP stated in a social media post. “Minimizing human contact is essential for their survival.”

The first three goslings hatched around Nov. 29. The second familyʻs goslings hatched around Dec. 20.

HVNP public affairs specialist Jessica Ferracane told Big Island Now it’s fairly uncommon for park visitors to encounter nēnē sitting on a nest in the park, as they often conceal their ground nests in native bushes like pūkīawe and ʻaāliʻi.

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“The families at Uēkahuna were nested in vegetation close to the parking lot and would forage throughout the area looking for food, which is why the park had to close the area,” Ferracane said. “By making their nesting grounds as safe as possible, we help conserve this beautiful and rare goose for future generations to enjoy.”

One to three goslings is fairly typical for a nene family.

“We hope they all survive into adulthood and raise families of their own,” Ferracane said.

Wild nēnē are found only in Hawai‘i and are the last survivor of several other endemic geese. The nēnē was down-listed from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2019.

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This change in classification comes after 60 years of collaborative conservation efforts among federal, state, local and nonprofit partners. Nearly 3,500 nēnē exist statewide with stable or increasing populations on Kaua‘i, Maui and Hawai‘i Island and an additional population on Moloka‘i. About 165 geese live in HVNP.

Concerns for the animal’s survival are ongoing.

Four nēnē were fatally struck by vehicles this year — three on Chain of Craters Road within the national park and one in Waikoloa. According to park officials, the deaths included a female nēnē and its male mate.

Ferracane reminds the public to be mindful of the geese while in the park. Drivers should always observe posted speed limits and look out for nēnē especially in signed nēnē areas.

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“If you see a nēnē remember to give them room and use your zoom,” Ferracane said, “and never, ever feed nēnē.”

Learn more about nēnē and park efforts to ensure their survival: Nēnē – Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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