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Translocation: A Piece of the Conservation Puzzle

Translocation is being used as a tool to protect Hawai’i’s native seabirds from invasive species, but this is only one part of a much larger conservation effort.

Two of Hawai’i’s most endangered seabirds are getting much-needed help to prevent further population declines. The Endangered Newell’s Shearwater and the Vulnerable Hawaiian Petrel are flagship species on Kaua’i but have suffered dramatic population losses due to the presence of invasive species in their habitat. Now, conservationists are using translocation and other conservation tools to help protect these seabird chicks.

Translocation is a part of the conservation strategy devised to boost Newell’s Shearwaters and Hawaiian Petrel populations. This is the second year that the plan to move newborn chicks to the Nihoku Crater in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge has been enacted. The refuge is a predator-free breeding colony that allows the new chicks to thrive. Andre Raine, with Kaua’i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project explains:

This project is an important facet of the conservation of the Newell’s Shearwater and Hawaiian Petrel.

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A Newell’s Shearwater chick preparing for translocation. Credit: Nick Holmes/Kaua’i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project

So far this year eight Newell’s Shearwater chicks have been transported to the refuge where they will continue to be monitored by the conservation partners involved. The colony has man-made burrows that are protected from invasive predators. One of the reasons translocation offers hope for threatened seabirds is that these chicks are philopatric—they return each year to the same breeding sites. Young chicks imprint on the colony where they live and will return to the safe location when they themselves are ready to breed.

Hawaiian Petrel habitat. Credit: Ann Bell/USFWS

Translocating the individuals is only one part of the partnership’s project and is only effective when coupled with continued monitoring and removal of invasive species that could pose a threat to the chicks. Projects to protect native seabirds are found throughout Kaua’i, and efforts are underway to restore Lehua Island to further contribute to safe habitat for the region’s at-risk native wildlife. Removing invasive species is a vital part of the plan to provide Newell’s Shearwaters and Hawaiian Petrels with a safe place to breed and nest.

Featured Photo: Predator-proof fence at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Ann Bell/USFWS
Source: The Garden Island

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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