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Leap of religion pays off for Hawaiian seabirds


    Conservationists in Kaua’i’s Kilauea Level Nationwide Wildlife Refuge celebrated thrilling milestones for 2 endangered seabird species in 2022, they usually’re wanting ahead to extra excellent news this yr.

    Since 2015, a consortium of conservation companions together with American Hen Conservancy (ABC), Pacific Rim Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been translocating Newell’s Shearwater and Hawaiian Petrel chicks to a fenced-in predator-proof space referred to as Nihokū. The hope is to ascertain a brand new breeding colony for each species that’s protected from threats like invasive species and sea-level rise.

    Final yr, seven years of devoted translocations paid off for each species. In summer season 2022, a translocated Newell’s Shearwater got here again as an grownup to prospect for a nesting web site for the primary time, and in fall 2022, a Hawaiian Petrel chick hatched by translocated dad and mom efficiently fledged. The Hawaiian Petrel information is a specific reduction to the group, marking the official starting of a Hawaiian Petrel colony inside the fence.

    Newell’s Shearwater
    A Newell’s Shearwater chick sits in a restoration employee’s fingers. Photograph by Andre Raine/Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Restoration Mission

    “I bear in mind the beginning of this mission — It appears like a very long time in the past! — constructing the fence and bringing the primary batch of Hawaiian Petrel chicks to the positioning,” mentioned George Wallace, director of worldwide applications and partnerships for ABC. “Due to the lengthy time frame to first breeding within the species, it’s a gradual course of getting a colony began this fashion, however it’s working. All of the companions have so much to be pleased with with this one.”

    Since 2015, conservationists have translocated dozens of chicks of each species to Nihokū to ascertain a brand new colony. After the seabirds fledge, they sometimes spend 4 to 5 years foraging on the open seas as they mature to breeding age, then return to breed on the web site the place they fledged. Meaning efforts like these require a leap of religion — conservationists needed to persist for years earlier than understanding whether or not efforts would repay.

    However many take into account it definitely worth the threat as a result of with out locations like Nihokū, each species might be on observe to extinction. Newell’s Shearwater numbers fell by 95 p.c between 1993 and 2013, and Hawaiian Petrels declined by 78 p.c throughout that point. The most important risk for each species is invasive mammals like cats and rats that prey on eggs and chicks. The thrilling new developments are an indication of hope and a testomony to years of arduous work, persistence, and dedication from companions working to safe these seabirds’ future survival. — Rachel Fritts, American Hen Conservancy

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    This text seems within the March/April 2023 problem of BirdWatching journal. 

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