State officials reported that 11 alala, or Hawaiian crows, survived several days of heavy rains in the wake of Tropical Storm Lane in their forest home at Puu Makaala Natural Area Reserve on the Big Island with little difficulty.
It offers an encouraging sign for The Alala Project, a partnership between the state, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and San Diego Zoo Global, which is working to once again establish a population of the critically endangered, native birds.
Last fall, those 11 alala were the first to have been successfully released into the forest from captive breeding facilities.
“The Hawaiian forest is very resilient and, in that way, the alala are also very resilient,” said Alison Greggor, a post-doctoral research associate at San Diego Zoo Global.
Greggor and a team went into the field to check on the crows once it was safe, and were encouraged to find them doing very well.
“We have a hardy set of birds and they’ve shown over the past year, almost, being out here through lots of winter weather that they survive really well in wet conditions, and they’re able to fend for themselves,” she said. “We’ve also seen over time the birds have become much better at being able to seek shelter in the forest, at finding those natural nooks and crevices where they can hide from the rain, and that seems to have done them well because when we did find them after the storm, they were looking dry and healthy.”
She added that the alala can become ill if exposed to prolonged rain, which can cause their body temperatures to drop.
The last wild alala was sighted more than 15 years ago in South Kona.
Through The Alala Project, experts from state and federal agencies, non-profits and private entities are working together to raise the birds in conservation centers on Maui and Hawaii island while strategically planning their release back to the wild.
Another 10 alala are expected to be released into the wild this fall, with more to follow in Hawaii’s native forests over the next three years in hopes that they will eventually thrive on their own in Hawaii’s forests.