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Native crows going back to the wild

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HILO >> Scientists plan to reintroduce Hawaii’s last remaining native crow species to the Big Island’s forests after breeding the bird in captivity.

A dozen alala, which have been extinct in the wild for 14 years, will be released in September. Biologists will monitor the birds’ progress and expect to release 12 alala each of the next five years, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

“The ultimate goal is a self-sustaining wild population of birds,” said John Vetter, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. “We expect that will take a number of years. It depends how successful we are.”

The birds, which forage in undergrowth, face several threats in the wild, including feral cats, rats, mongooses and the Hawaiian hawk.

The birds’ release will follow a failed attempt in the 1990s, when 27 birds were freed in South Kona. Twenty-one alala died due to disease and predation, and the remaining six were recaptured.

The state hopes the next release, in the Puu Makaala Natural Area Reserve near Volcano, will have a better outcome, Vetter said.

There are 114 captive alala being raised at the Keauhou and Maui bird conservation centers.

The reintroduction program will cost $800,000 in its first year and up to $500,000 each year after that, Vetter said.

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