Animal care staff at San Diego Zoo Global’s Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program are celebrating the first alala, or Hawaiian crow, to be hatched this past weekend in the 2016 breeding season.
Later this year, hatched alala chicks will go back to their native forests on Hawaii Island. The alala has been absent in the wild since 2002, preserved only in the program run by San Diego Zoo Global at its Hawaiian bird centers.
It was brought to the brink of extinction by loss of habitat, as well as introduced predators and diseases.
“This first hatching of the season is the earliest we have on record,” said Bryce Masuda, conservation program manager of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program. “Although there is a possibility that this chick may be part of the group to be released into the wild this fall, we won’t identify the release group until all of the candidate chicks have hatched.”
This first chick hatched from an egg laid on March 4 that was incubated by staff at the center. The chick will be puppet-reared after it opens its eyes to ensure that it does not imprint on humans. Animal care staff hope to create two groups of young alala to be released into their native forests later in 2016.
The collaborative effort to prepare for an alala reintroduction has included significant work by many partners to prepare a large protected area of forest on Hawaii Island. Additional eggs are expected to begin hatching in early April.