Since July, about 50 dead ducks were found by a small group of people in the Waikiki area.
Waikiki resident Deborah Tamura first noticed several dead ducks near Iolani Stream, right behind the school, on her morning walk.
Once she noticed the ducks stopped going near Iolani stream, she went to Kapiolani Park.
That’s where she saw even more dead ducks.
“Then it tapered off for a while, for probably about three weeks or so, and then all of a sudden this past week it was a whole bunch of dead or sick ducks,” Tamura said.
Tamura said one day she found 16 dead or sick ducks between Kapiolani Park and Iolani Stream.
Kailua resident Susan Wilkinson also loves ducks. When she heard what was happening, she decided to help Tamura.
Both women took some of the sick ducks to the Hawaii Humane Society and they took others to the vet.
Out of the dozens they took, only one survived.
Wilkinson said she could tell the ducks were sick.
“They’re super tired, their tails are usually perky, but they were starting to drop flat in the water, they weren’t able to move, not able to swim, not able to get away from you when you’re going to catch them,” she explained.
Experts say botulism, a bacteria found in stagnant water is most likely the culprit.
“I was personally kind of alarmed and thinking I hope the authorities are doing the appropriate thing and that is taking a look as I am today,” said Dr. Eric Ako, a veterinarian who has been practicing avian medicine for over 30 years.
He said it’s important to find out what it’s killing the ducks.
“We need to be vigilant about diseases that are not only affecting the birds themselves but some of the diseases might be dangerous for people,” he said.
People passing by were asking where all the ducks went and why they were turning up dead.
He looked at the different ducks at Iolani Stream and noticed a native and endangered duck swimming.
“I would definitely testify there are far less ducks than I last saw [here], just now I saw maybe half a dozen and like most streams, in Hawaii, there is a mixed breed some do have koloa which is an endangered protected species,” he said.
Botulism is found in stagnant water. “You’ll see a lot of rubbish in the water, it won’t be clear and shiny like this water is, and you’ll see sick ducks and it’s usually a lot of them, not just one,” Dr. Ako explained.
The heat, humidity, lack of rain and wind could all contribute to the dirty water the two women saw the week before.
“That water looked kind of nasty so we would want to be thinking about diseases like botulism which has historically caused large kills for example at Hawaii Kai and Kapiolani Park.
The disease causes paralysis by attacking the nervous system.
“This disease is treatable, we should look into it if there are large numbers dying,” he said. “Not only for the birds’ well-being but for the safety of the people and the people’s pets who I’m sure walk through here with families.”
Dr. Ako won’t officially know it’s botulism until a necropsy is performed.