HONOLULU (AP) — The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project will halt its program after the deaths of nine endangered birds, officials said.
The decision to suspend the project on the windward slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano came after at least nine of 13 kiwikiu apparently succumbed to avian malaria, program scientists said.
Five captive and four wild birds died within a few weeks, some before they were released, while another bird was missing, officials said.
“The bottom underlying thing of all of this is, we’re losing the birds,” project coordinator Hanna Mounce said. “They are dying. They are going extinct, and there’s nothing we can do right now with the current tools that we have available to us to prevent that from happening.”
The kiwikiu is a yellow and olive-green Hawaiian honeycreeper with an estimated remaining population of up to about 300 birds. The species, also known as the Maui parrotbill, faces threats from habitat destruction by people and feral pigs, predators such as wild cats and mongooses, and avian disease spread by mosquitoes, officials said.
The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project transported the kiwikiu to the Nakula Natural Area Reserve in hopes they would breed, officials said.
Scientists are hopeful for the survival of the four remaining birds in the reserve.
“Moving them to Nakula seems really risky and bold,” Mounce said. “But we’re hoping that’s going to give them a better chance.”
This story has been corrected to show that the endangered bird program was on the slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano but not within Haleakala National Park.