Scientists Plan to Defy Extinction, Release ‘Alalā into the Wild

Scientists and conservationists take steps to save the Hawaiian Crow “‘Alalā” from extinction.

A Hawaiian Crow, also known as “‘Alalā”, chick recently hatched at the San Diego Zoo. The arrival of the chick–the first one this year–marks an important step in a project to reintroduce the ‘Alalā to its natural habitat. The Hawaiian Crow has been extinct in the wild for 14 years. Scientists plan to release the individuals bred in captivity back into the wild.

The ultimate goal is a self-sustaining wild population of birds.” – John Vetter, Wildlife Biologist with the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Island Conservation Science AlalaPhoto by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

But why is the ‘Alalā precariously poised at the edge of extinction? Habitat destruction and predation by invasive species present serious threats to the ‘Alalā. Introduced species such as feral cats and rats have become more and more prevalent on the Hawaiian Islands. They damage the undergrowth, where these crows forage, and are dangerous, unnatural predators to the unsuspecting ‘Alalā.

Earlier this year, scientists sequenced the ‘Alalā’s genome, which will support conservationists’ efforts to help the crow survive in its native habitat. This advancement of knowledge, as well as the captive breeding and release programs are important steps in saving the ‘Alalā from extinction. It is also crucial that the ‘Alalā’s native habitat be free of invasive species. Eradication of invasive species from the islands could greatly improve the ‘Alalā’s chances at survival. Hopefully, one day, this beautiful and rare bird will once again thrive in the wild.

Read the original article at Daily Journal.

Feature photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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