Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Alan Lieberman, program director at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center on the Big Island, observed four nene in 1997. About 800 nene are found in the wild today in Hawaii.

Nene reproducing
on ranch on Molokai

2 of the endangered state birds
have raised their first gosling

By Diana Leone

Endangered nene are thriving on Molokai, where a pair of the 11 birds released on the island in December have successfully raised their first offspring.

A 5-month-old gosling is believed to be the first nene hatched on Molokai in 100 years, said Annie Marshall, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist.

In hopes that nene will continue to prosper on Molokai, the Fish and Wildlife Service and state Forestry and Wildlife Division want to expand joint "safe harbor" agreements to other landowners.

A "safe harbor" agreement, the first in the state, allowed the initial release of nene on Puu O Hoku Ranch. Officials want to be prepared for the birds to move beyond the boundaries of the ranch to other private lands across the island.

Expanding the safe-harbor agreement islandwide will be the topic of a public hearing at 7 p.m. July 1 at Mitchell Pauole Center. Under a safe-harbor agreement, landowners allow wildlife officials onto their land to count endangered species. In return, the landowners won't be held responsible if the animals are accidentally killed or harmed.

Hawaii's state bird faced extinction in the 1940s, but captive breeding programs saved the species. Today, about 800 nene are found in the wild on the islands of Kauai, Maui and Hawaii.

Since the December release of 10 young nene and a older "foster mother" bird, three more nene were released this spring on Molokai with 10 more coming this summer, Marshall said. All the birds were raised at a special bird-breeding facility on Maui.

"We're trying to re-establish a statewide population," Marshall said. "It's pretty exciting for us that we're able to do this."

Paul Conry, state wildlife program manager, said: "Nene are going to find the habitat they like. The big deal is predation (by dogs, mongooses, etc.) ... and we can assist with predator control."

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