First ‘Alalā of 2016 Hatches at Hawaiian Bird Center

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Animal care staff at San Diego Zoo Global’s Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program are celebrating the first ‘alalā to be hatched in the 2016 breeding season. Later this year, hatched ‘alalā chicks will go back to their native forests on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. The ‘alalā, or Hawaiian crow, has been extinct in the wild since 2002, preserved only in the program run by San Diego Zoo Global at its Hawaiian bird centers.

“This first hatching of the season is the earliest we have on record,” said Bryce Masuda, conservation program manager of the Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program. “Although there is a possibility that this chick may be part of the group to be released into the wild this fall, we won’t identify the release group until all of the candidate chicks have hatched.”

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This first chick hatched from an egg laid on March 4 that was incubated by staff at the center. The chick will be puppet-reared after it opens its eyes, to ensure that it does not imprint on humans. Animal care staff hope to create two groups of young ‘alalā to be released into their native forests later in 2016. The collaborative effort to prepare for an ‘alalā reintroduction has included significant work by many partners, to prepare a large protected area of forest on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Additional eggs are expected to begin hatching in early April.

The ‘alalā is a member of the crow family that was brought to the brink of extinction by loss of habitat, as well as introduced predators and diseases.

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“Returning the ‘alalā to the forest is a significant step in the recovery of this species and native forest ecosystem in Hawai’i,” said Jay Nelson, wildlife biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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  1. Ken Waddell