`Alalā Breeding Season a Success

San Diego, California - Partially feathered and squawking for meals, `alalā chicks at San Diego Zoo Global's Keauhou Bird Conservation Center keep animal care staff busy.   With nine new chicks being hand-reared this year, the rare bird's population now numbers 115 at the Center. 

`Alalā (also known as Hawaiian crows) are extinct in the wild, the remaining population is managed through a collaborative effort by the Hawai`i Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP) on the big island of Hawaii.  The chicks are fed and cared for by animal care staff they never see to ensure they do not imprint on humans.

"`Alalā are very intelligent birds and very susceptible to imprinting," said Byce Masuda, program manager for San Diego Zoo Global. "We use puppets to hand-rear and feed the birds when they are young to keep them from imprinting onto us so they will act naturally as adults."

The last `alalā were recorded in their Hawaiian forest natural habitat in 2002 where they were threatened by habitat destruction, introduced predators and avian disease.  The HEBCP has been working with the species in managed care since 1993, bringing the population from a low of only 20 individuals to 115. 

The Hawai`i Endangered Bird Conservation Program is a field program of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, in partnership with the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Planning and preparation efforts are currently underway to restore `alala back into its vital niche within the forest ecosystem on the Big Island of Hawai`i. It is hoped that the first reintroduction activities will begin in fall 2014.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The important conservation and science work of these entities is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

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