Hawaiian petrel are native to Hawaii island and their population has declined dramatically over the years. Snatching up the petrel chicks from their burrows is an effort to conserve them.
A couple of days ago, researchers were dropped onto Kauai’s rocky interior along the coast through helicopters. They reached near the burrows occupied by fluffy Hawaiian seabird chicks, grabbed around 10 of them and flew away.
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No, it’s not an act of kidnapping. This is a materialization of a historic 30-year old project, aiming to protect endangered Hawaiian petrels from disappearance.
“Petrels, like many other native Hawaiian species, are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species. Translocating the birds to Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge ensures that this colony of birds will be protected for our children and our children’s children.” Michael Mitchell, the project leader from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement.
The chicks were carefully removed from the holes, put in the carries and seat-belts were fastened up to ensure their safety. They have taken to their new home, a recently completed predator proof fence in the Nihoku area of the Refuge.
“This translocation will establish a new, predator-free colony of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel to help prevent the extirpation of the species from Kauai.” Mitchell said.
Hawaiian petrels are endemic to Hawaiian Islands and are not found in any other part of the world. A significant decline has been noticed in their population in recent years. A complex array of forces has led to the dramatic decline including threat to predators and collisions with man-made vehicles during their flights in search of food.
In the Nihoku area, chicks will be kept inside 6.5 feet high and 7.8 acre long stainless steel fiancé which will protect them from predators. Inside the fence, there are especially designed nest boxes which are just like natural burrows and make them feel at home.
“Predator proof fencing and translocations of this type are necessary conservation strategies in Hawai’i to deal with widespread non-native predator populations that cannot be readily eradicated,” said Dr. George Wallace, Vice President of American Bird Conservancy.
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“For the Hawaiian Petrel, which is threatened by non-native predators in their montane nesting areas, creation of a colony protected from predators will be a major step forward in stabilizing and recovering its Kauaʻi population.”