David Y.Ige | DLNR News Release-An ‘Akikiki Named Carrot is Saved
DLNR News Release-An ‘Akikiki Named Carrot is Saved
Posted on Sep 2, 2022 in Latest news from the department, Press room
(LIHUE) – This morning, a critically endangered ‘akikiki received VIP treatment with a helicopter ride from a deep valley in the Alaka’i Plateau to safety at the Maui Bird Conservation Center (MBCC).
Named Carrot, for its orange leg band, the ‘akikiki is the father of a chick, Erica, entrusted to human care last December. Over the past ten days, a five-person field crew has been setting up mist nets and using sound attraction to try to lure Carrot and another bird, his offspring. They are thought to be the last remaining ‘akikiki in an area called Halehaha. While the team spotted Carrots offspring named Abby (although it is believed to be a male), they were unable to catch her.
Dr. Lisa “Cali” Crampton directs the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project (KFBRP). When asked if bringing a bird out of its wild habitat to protect it from deadly avian malaria was a success, she replied, “Absolutely! Even when these birds were more plentiful, they were difficult to catch, especially at this time of year when they do not breed, therefore not actively defending their territories and responding to play. So kudos to the team for getting one of the two men we targeted.
‘Akikiki, a native Honeycreeper, found only on Kauai, has gone into perilous decline as malaria-carrying mosquitoes moved into their territory, killing them one by one.
Crampton said: “It is also important to note that with only 40 birds left in the wild, every bird we can safely bring into captivity to protect them from avian malaria will give the species a better chance of not vanish. The carrot is especially important because it has a proven track record in breeding, so hopefully it can teach some valuable behaviors to ‘captive-born akikiki’.
The field team included KFBRP staff Justin Hite and Tyler Winter, as well as Sonia Vallochia from the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, Cara Thow from the Hawai’i Island Avian Disease Program DLNR /PCSU and bird care expert Peter Luscomb captured Carrot in the very last hours of their week-and-a-half-long search and rescue mission.
Just after dawn, Airborne Aviation pilot Chris Currier landed at the field camp to retrieve the bird, housed overnight and for the helicopter trip to Maui, in a specially designed box. Currier said it was a real honor to be part of the effort to try to save ‘akikiki from extinction in the wild.
At Maui’s Kahului Airport, Jennifer Pribble and Brenden Scott of MBCC, operated by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA), stepped outside to meet Currier the courier and drove Carrot to their Olinda facility. He becomes the 37th ‘akikiki safe there, where they will remain, as a slew of agencies and organizations grapple with plans to introduce incompatible male mosquitoes into critical forest bird habitats. to suppress mosquito populations and try to turn back the extinction clock.
At the MBBC, Carrot received fluids, food and antiviral medication. He underwent a thorough examination before being quarantined for the next 30 days.
How did Carrot, Erica, and Abby survive when all the other Halehaha ‘akikiki disappeared? Crampton said: “Part of it could be luck of the draw, like why some people have still escaped COVID despite it being widespread. It could be that their territory, which includes a few ridges, receives a little more wind and therefore fewer mosquitoes? Or it could be that they had avian malaria but were lucky enough to get a mild dose and survived.
The carrot rescue is great news, but tempered by the fact that there’s a good chance the species will be extinct in the wild within a year, before more birds can be saved.
“We are very happy and honored to have the opportunity to save the last ‘akikiki from near certain death in the wild and prevent complete extinction of the species. This decision was not easy to make. take; where possible, we prefer to leave the species in the wild. But the disappearance of the Halehaha population, which was once the largest, does not bode well for the remaining birds, and so at this stage, the best thing to do is protect them in captivity until mosquitoes and avian malaria are controlled on the landscape over the next few years.Once the threat of disease has subsided, we plan to release ‘akikiki into the nature. So this is a temporary situation,” Crampton explained.
Next spring, a partnership between KFBRP, SDZWA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, DLNR Forestry and Wildlife Division, Pacific Bird Conservancy and other partners hope to mount a search and akikiki rescue to bring the last wild birds and their eggs back to safety.
Crampton said: “It’s an exciting time because we’ve achieved our goal, but also a very dark time. I lay awake last night thinking about Abby, the remaining ‘akikiki in Halehaha, wondering what would happen to him, if we’d see him again, if we’d get another chance to try to catch him, trying to imagine Halehaha without ‘Akiki.
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(All images/video courtesy of DLNR)
HD Video – An ‘akikiki named Carrot is rescued (September 2, 2022):
Photographs – An ‘akikiki named Carrot is rescued (Sept. 2, 2022):
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