Only seven species of forest birds remain on Maui Nui after a large percentage landed on a federal agency’s possible extinction list this week.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to remove 23 species, including nine from Hawaii, from the federal lists of threatened and threatened wildlife and plants due to extensive data indicating extinction, including very low numbers of populations and high vulnerability .
“It’s extremely sad, it’s actually difficult to be a biologist working with, especially if it’s actually something you’ve seen before and knowing it’s not there anymore”, said Fern Duvall, program manager for the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project. “We’re talking about losing a lot of our native forest birds, we’re talking about a big percentage that will no longer be there.”
Some bird species in Hawaii that have been declared extinct include Kauai akialoa, Kauai nukupu’u, Kauai ‘o’o (honey), Great Kauai (kama) thrush, Maui’ akepa, Maui nukupu’u, climbing plant Molokai (kakawahie) and po ‘ouli (plant-honey).
A plant endemic to Hawaii called phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis – which is part of the mint family and was last seen on Lanai in 1914 – is also on the list.
Observing the unique behaviors of these birds and hearing their calls in the wild is no longer possible, and has been for some time, said Duvall, also a wildlife biologist for the Forestry and Wildlife Division of the Department of Lands and of the state’s natural resources.
“I’m lucky to have seen (po’ouli) once and I was there a lot trying to see it, but I saw one once, but nobody can do that anymore” , he said Thursday evening. âThey have to go to the Bishop Museums and look at a plush skin. . . How can a bird like this just disappear?
The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal is based on a review of the “Best scientific and commercial information available”, which indicates that these species are no longer detectable, that is to say that they no longer meet the definition of endangered species.
The announcement triggers a 60-day public comment period before the status of the species becomes final.
The World Conservation Union’s policy operates under a 50-year rule, which means that an animal can only be labeled as extinct if it has not been seen through active proof efforts for more than 50 years old.
Maui ‘akepa were last seen in 1988 and heard in 1995 from the Kipahulu Valley; a Maui nukupu’u was last seen in 1996 on the slopes of Haleakala in Hanawi Nature Reserve; and the last three po’ouli, from East Maui, died in captivity in 2004.
“It would only be through some really tough and challenging fieldwork to find out if a bird isn’t there, and that’s why some of the species are on this list,” said Duvall. “These birds will not only reappear, these plants will not only reappear.”
Experts cited many factors contributing to the extinction of these animals, including climate change, which has led to severe drought in Maui County, flooding, wildfires and temperature swings, as well as a increased development and human contact; and competition from invasive species.
Mosquitoes are another major problem for native Maui Nui forest birds due to the parasites they bring, and at higher and higher elevations as temperatures warm, Duvall said.
However, there are stories of hope and success returning, he added, noting that there were only around 30 nene in 1950 and there are now thousands and counting thanks. protection and management efforts.
Organizations across Valley Island, such as the Maui Nui Seabird Project or the Maui Forest Recovery Bird project and other experts in the field, continue to manage and assess populations of threatened species.
In an effort to preserve Maui Nui’s remaining native forest birds, Duvall said the “The best thing people can do right now” is to support the Birds project, not Mosquitoes, which aims to save these species from extinction by avian malaria.
“If we could get rid of the mosquitoes, the birds could flourish and come down the slope” said Duvall. âIt is critical that the public know that what the state is trying to do is get permission to release sterile breeding mosquitoes and thus transmit avian diseases. “
The community can also get involved by stopping by a local nursery and collecting native plants and trees, like ‘ohi’a, and planting them in the appropriate places so that the birds “Will have the habit of coming back” he said.
“Plant natives, get rid of mosquitoes – these are crucial things you can do right for Maui”, he said.
* Dakota Grossman can be contacted at [email protected]