San Diego Zoo Global’s breeding program for the alala has been a big success this year with 9 new chicks being born. That’s brilliant news for a species which currently numbers only 115.
Animal care staff at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Centre are being kept busy feeding the partially feathered youngsters. These birds also known as the Hawaiian crow are only kept at this facility which is managed by San Diego Zoo Global.
Extinct in the wild this population is managed with support from the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP) on the Big Island of Hawaii.
These birds are all hand raised due to their rarity but never actually see humans. Bryce Masuda, the San Diego Zoo Global program manager said, “Alala are very intelligent birds and very susceptible to imprinting.” Keepers use special tactics to achieve this he explained, “We use puppets to hand-rear and feed the birds when they are young to keep them from imprinting onto us so they will act naturally as adults.”
The HEBCP began working with this species as part of a management program in 1993. Since then they have grown the population from a group of 20 to the current size. Threatened by habitat destruction and diseases the last alala was recorded in the wild in 2002.
The alala is set to return to natural home again soon. Plans are currently being made for a reintroduction onto the big island of Hawaii. It is hoped that this could happen as soon as fall 2014.
Photo: San Diego Zoo Global