Ten of Hawaii's beloved and endangered petrel chicks were transported via helicopter to a new predator-free zone in the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The chicks were taken from their Kauaʻi's north shore breeding ground by scientists as part of a project 30 years in the making.
Part of the Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project's first class treatment included several teams venturing into the rugged mountains of Kauaʻi's to search for healthy petrel chicks living in holes in the ground. The petrel chicks were carefully scooped out by hand and placed in pet carriers before being carried to the mountain tops where a helicopter is waiting to pick them up. The teams took extra safety measures to ensure that the carriers were secured to avoid any injuries during the flight.
"This translocation will establish a new, predator-free colony of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel to help prevent the extirpation of the species from Kauaʻi," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Michael Mitchell, the acting project leader of the Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Invasive species and loss of habitat contributed to the endangered status of the Hawaiian petrels. Transporting the healthy chicks into a predator-free zone will ensure their survival and longevity for generations to come. Before arriving at their new abode, the petrel chicks made a stop at the Princeville Airport where they were examined.
Also called ʻUaʻu, the Hawaiian petrel is one of the two seabird species that can only be found in Hawaii. Their mammal predators include pigs, rats and cats. These predators along with collision incidents with man-made structures during flight contributed to their decreasing numbers.
Their new home is a 7.8 acre enclosed area at the Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Surrounded by a 6.5 feet tall fine mesh, the enclosed pen has been designed to imitate natural burrows complete with native vegetation and nest boxes.
American Bird Conservancy's vice president, Dr. George Wallace stressed the necessity of preservation tactics in Hawaii to solve the rampant increase of non-native predators which cannot be removed. For the Hawaiian petrels, the project is a big move in increasing its endangered population.
Photo: Andre Raine / Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project | Flickr