Just a couple of decades ago, the puaiohi was at risk of dying out.
Once plentiful, by the late 1990s, there were fewer than 300 of the birds left. The little Hawaiian critter, found on the island of Kaua’i, is not the flashiest of birds. But at least now, they have a fighting chance of survival.
Eggs from the species were brought to bird centers so that a captive breeding population could be established.
Captive raised puaiohi released back into wild
Since 1999, 240 captive raised puaiohi have been released into the wild. With about 500 birds in the wild population today, the decision was made to close the captive breeding program to focus on other species in captivity. For puaiohi, the focus will be on addressing remaining threats in the wild, including introduced predators, and habitat loss from degradation and invasive weeds.
“Following the model used for the puaiohi, we are now working to build breeding populations for two other critically endangered Kaua‘i species, the ‘akikiki and ‘akeke’e, while continuing to manage habitat and other threats for these three endangered birds, so that we can eventually release them back into the wild,” said John Vetter, Wildlife Biologist for the Division of Forestry and Wildlife in the state of Hawaii.
Remaining captive bred birds take flight
A total of 18 birds were released today joining an existing population of puaiohi in the area.
The Kauai Forest Birds Recovery Project will monitor the birds, and continue to control introduced mammalian predators such as rats, which are a significant threat to puaiohi and other Hawaiian forest birds.
The continual removal of invasive species and protection of the forest by many agencies and organizations also give hope to the long-term recovery of puaiohi and other endemic forest birds on Kauai.
This is a bittersweet moment for those of us who have been working with these birds on a daily basis,” said Bryce Masuda, Conservation Program Manager, San Diego Zoo Global’s Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program. “We will miss seeing them every day but are delighted to be part of the collaborative effort to ensure this species survives into the future.”