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Detector Dog Discovers Burrow of Endangered Hawaiian Sea Bird at Pōhakuloa Training Area

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Slater, a conservation detector dog, surveying for ʻakeʻake
burrows at Pōhakuloa Training Area. (PC: PTA)

A new burrow of an endangered Hawaiian sea bird was discovered in August at the U.S. military’s training facility on Hawai‘i Island.

Conservation detector dog, Slater, discovered the Band-rumped Storm Petrel, or ʻakeʻake, at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area, PTA, alongside natural resources staff. This is the sixth active burrow found since the ʻakeʻake breeding colony was first discovered at PTA in 2015.

ʻAkeʻake is a small, endangered sea bird that spends most of its life at sea only returning to land to breed.

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“ʻAkeʻake burrows are cryptic, which makes locating breeding sites challenging,” a PTA press release stated Friday. “To find these burrows, staff rely on conservation detector dogs to detect an odor unique to ʻakeʻake.”

Slater began his job this summer at PTA after the retirement of the previous dog team. Slater began odor training in July and located an active burrow on his first outing. During his second visit, the canine identified two additional sites that may be burrows. PTA officials say Natural Resources staff will deploy surveillance cameras to monitor these areas in hopes of detecting additional ʻakeʻake activity.

“Working with the conservation detector dogs and their handlers has been rewarding and we couldn’t find the burrows without their help” said Rogelio Doratt, a cooperator with the Natural Resources staff.

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PTA officials say monitoring ʻakeʻake burrows provides valuable information to develop better management strategies to protect vulnerable breeding birds from introduced predators such as cats, mongoose, rodents, and barn owls.

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