Hope for endangered birds takes flight
Laysan ducks and nene geese have multiplied with a little help from human friends and nature
WITH a little help from humans and nature's indulgence, two of Hawaii's endangered birds appear to be recovering, their numbers slowly growing after more than a century in decline.
There is much to cheer in keeping the breeds alive, but even with persistent effort there might never come a time when they are so abundant they cannot be counted as they are today.
Still, optimism runs high with the increasing populations of the nene at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Laysan duck on Midway Atoll.
Both endemic birds are among the hundreds of species unique to Hawaii that are in danger of extinction.
The Laysan duck was particularly at risk because its geographic range, the single island that shares its name, is the smallest of any duck species in the world. The fear was that a destructive event, such as disease or hurricane, could wipe out the ducks.
Since 2004, two flocks have been transferred to Midway, where predators have been removed and habitat restored. There, all but two of the 42 ducks have survived, and dozens of ducklings have been hatched.
The nene saw its most successful breeding season in years with 36 goslings living long enough to fledge, compared to about 15 in previous seasons. A park biologist credited the increase to suitable weather, new signs alerting drivers to goose crossings, and fences that kept mongooses, pigs and feral cats away.
The signs were a generous contribution from James Brogan, owner of Signs Hawaii in Honolulu, who designed and donated 14 markers after learning that some had been stolen from the park. Brogan and his staff deserve the thanks of everyone who cares about protecting Hawaii's rare species.
Tens of thousands of Laysan ducks and nene once inhabited all of the islands, their decline attributed to introduced predators and habitat destruction. Just as human presence spelled their displacement, so can people aid their survival.
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