LĪHUʻE AIRPORT WINDOW DISPLAY HIGHLIGHTS NATIVE FOREST BIRDS

(LĪHUʻE, KAUA‘I) – A display in the Līhuʻe Airport is showcasing the unique wildlife found on Kaua‘i and the threats it faces from invasive species.

The Garden Island Arts Council teamed up with Hallux Ecosystem Restoration, LLC, to create the large window display. As part of the ‘Year of the Forest Birds’ (ka Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele), models and photos of Kaua‘i’s endemic birds and plants illustrate information about the uniqueness of these species, and the many local groups working to save them.

“I feel the connection to the birds in the forest is really an important part that everybody that lives here and visits here should really understand. They are like our messengers to tell us the health of the forest and to just be the indicator of things that are changing.  They’re the ones that seem to be the most impacted,” said Kat Ho of the Garden Island Arts Council.

The exhibit also educates viewers about invasive species putting the birds at risk. “In this display we highlight feral goats, feral pigs, feral cats, along with the variety of invasive plant species like strawberry guava, banana poka, blackberry and Himalayan ginger, the list goes on and on,” said Aliana Ho of Hallux Ecosystem Restoration. “A lot of folks are saying that they didn’t know that these species were not native to Hawai‘i, a lot of folks are saying that they’re really grateful for this information and they wish it was in more places, or that it was in every airport.”

A scannable QR code encourages people to interact and provide feedback about what they learned. The responses reflect a high level of engagement so far.

“Each of our islands has endemic species, bird species, that are only found on this specific island. And one of the things that I really would like visitors and residents that come here looking at this display to learn is how special this is, and how unique this is,” said Dr. Julia Diegmann planner at Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project. “They are important for the forest. They have ecosystem functions. They are important for the culture here in Hawai‘i. To me this is really, really important because it shows us how important and special they are and how much they are a part of the essence that makes Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi.”

BLESSING FOR THE START OF FOREST BIRD FIELD SEASON ON KAUA‘I 2024 is The Year of The Forest Birds

(KŌKE‘E STATE PARK, KAUA‘I) –A muddy and weary team from the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project (KFBRP), arrived here in time for the annual blessing of the field season for conservationists working against the clock to save numerous species of Hawaiian Honeycreepers from extinction.

For more than a decade, the hālau from Ka ʻImi Naʻauao O Hawaiʻi Nei Institute have performed ‘oli and chants to kick off the annual forest bird field season. Kumu Keahi Manea commented prior to last Friday’s blessing, “We made the commitment years ago and we’ve learned a lot about the birds we didn’t know. They’ve learned a lot about hula, and chant, and mele, and things Hawaiian they didn’t know. They inspired us to create new ‘oli, mele, songs, and hula. We love doing it.”

Tyler Winter, a field crew leader with KFBRP, spent the first four-day long field excursion with a team doing predator control work and bird captures. The teams are trying to bring as many of the extremely endangered birds into safety as possible, while efforts to control avian malaria-carrying mosquitos ramp up. Once the disease threat is under control the hope is to return honeycreeper species to the wild, like the remote mountainous areas in the Kōke‘e, Waimea Canyon, Alaka‘i Plateau regions of Kaua‘i.

“I think it’s important to have these blessings. As the populations of these birds diminish and we must go further and further into the field to access them, so much of our time is spent in the field, we don’t have much time to interact with people. Being at a blessing like this is super important, because it’s one of the few times we get to see the impacts these birds have on people and their important cultural significance. It also helps with our new hires we take into the field to have them see the engagement that’s going on with the forest birds.

On Friday’s blessing day, KFBRP and the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee (KISC) had outreach and education displays set up under tents, along with experts to answer visitors’ questions.

Kim Rogers of KISC said, that while her organization typically deals with issues like Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), there’s a clear nexus between forest health and biodiversity and the plight of Hawai‘i’s forest birds.

“When people think about fauna in our forests, they think about our precious forest birds. ʻŌhiʻa and the forest birds have a very reciprocal relationship in that the trees provide homes, food, and nectar. In return the forest birds help pollinate ʻōhiʻa lehua. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. You can’t have one or talk about one without having the other.”

The hālau performed several original mele, including one that describes the beauty and characteristics of several at-risk species like, ‘akikiki and kiwikiu, two of the honeycreepers expected to completely disappear from Hawaiian forests imminently.

Governor Josh Green, M.D. and Kaua‘i Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami have both proclaimed Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele, The Year of the Forest Birds. That recognition along with Friday’s blessing is giving encouragement and hope to the teams working to save the birds.

Winter explained, “This season is going to be really cool. We’ll be traveling a lot across the Alaka‘i Plateau. Last season we did a really focused recovery effort for the ‘akikiki, as such we spent a lot of time in areas that we knew were good habitat and high quality for those birds. This year we’re doing more of a survey of the entire plateau. The dream would be if there are ‘akikiki still out there or other pockets of endangered species we’ll be able to encounter them and hopefully gain more information on how to protect them.”

All the researchers and conservationists involved in forest bird recovery projects, especially on Kaua‘i and Maui say they are realistic but hopeful. To work in conservation and to protect these species you have to be hopeful. We’ll have keen eyes and ears out for them. That’s what we’ll be doing this year.”

 

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RESOURCES

(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)

 

HD video – Kaua‘i forest bird field season blessing (March 1, 2024):

https://vimeo.com/919279997?share=copy

(Shot sheet/transcriptions attached)

 

HD video – Ka ʻImi Naʻauao O Hawaiʻi Nei full mele and hula (March 1, 2024)

https://vimeo.com/919283327?share=copy

(Recorded as live)

 

Photographs – Kauaʻi forest bird field season blessing (March 1, 2024):

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/0lf0zs955ss6n7ls8qftr/h?rlkey=t7dt4vm55gwvz1g2vvexndant&dl=0

 

Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Communications Director

808-587-0396

DLNR.comms@hawaii.gov

Mosquito Control Project to Save Honeycreepers Underway on Maui and Kaua‘i – Method Aims to Prevent Hawaiian Honeycreeper Extinctions

Several Hawaiian honeycreepers are facing imminent extinction due to avian malaria carried by invasive southern house mosquitoes. Members of the multi-agency partnership Birds, Not Mosquitoes (BNM) have begun releasing non-biting male southern house mosquitoes on Maui and Kaua‘i to reduce their populations. Following years of rigorous study and analysis, the releases began in November 2023 after regulatory approval from state and federal agencies.

“This really is a critical milestone as it demonstrates the strength of our partnerships to ensure the long-term survival of our island’s honeycreepers,” says Dr. Earl Campbell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. “It is made even more momentous as our collaborative efforts occur during Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele, the Year of the Forest Bird.”

This work is part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Strategy to Prevent the Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds and it is urgent: Hawaiʻi’s forest birds have declined from more than 50 different native honeycreepers to just 17 species remaining today.

“Manu are revered as our ‘ohana and for too long, their songs have been declining,” says Ulalia Woodside Lee, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy Hawai‘i and Palmyra. “We have a kuleana, a responsibility, to give nā manu nahele a chance to nourish Hawaiian culture and spirit, as well as pollinate our forests and keep them growing. We are looking forward to the day when honeycreepers aren’t rare in Hawaiʻi’s forests.”

Mosquitoes are rapidly moving to higher elevations as the climate changes and native forests get warmer and drier. Without significantly reducing mosquito populations, multiple native bird species are likely to go extinct in the wild in less than 10 years, including the kiwikiu and ʻākohekohe on Maui, and ʻakikiki and ʻakekeʻe on Kauaʻi.  

“After decades without the tools to solve this problem, this project is our best chance to save the birds and native forests for future generations,” says Dr. Chris Farmer, Hawai‘i Program Director for American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “I am excited and honored to be part of this historic collaboration to address difficult, previously intractable conservation problems, and commit to long-term solutions.” 

The male southern house mosquitoes, which do not bite or transmit disease, carry a strain of the common, naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria. When they mate with females in the wild, which carry a different strain of this bacteria, their eggs don’t hatch, causing the mosquito population to decrease. No new species are being introduced to Hawai‘i; both the mosquitoes and the Wolbachia bacteria are already here. This method has been safely used to control the spread of human diseases by mosquitoes around the world.

“This project is our best opportunity to reverse the trend of shrinking bird populations for these species that are found only in Hawaiʻi,” says Dr. Lindsey Nietmann, Forest Bird Recovery Coordinator for the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “In addition to protecting the birds that remain in our forests, we hope these efforts will one day lead to the release of captive populations that are currently in conservation breeding facilities and awaiting re-introduction to the wild.”

Monitoring is an essential part of this project. It helps determine if mosquito populations are decreasing, malaria prevalence is decreasing, and native bird populations are stabilizing or increasing. Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project (MFBRP) has been leading implementation on Maui. Landscape level deployment has begun over a few thousand acres of remote forests on East Maui.

“Our monitoring is driven by science and is designed to gather the best possible data,” says Dr. Christa Seidl, MFBRP’s Mosquito Research and Control Coordinator. “Our field team provides essential boots on the ground and in the air, spending long, often wet days in remote forests checking mosquito traps and collecting data.”

Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project has been leading efforts on Kaua‘i, and has completed small scale pilot releases to assess how far the male mosquitoes travel. Next steps include releases over a few thousand acres of forest on the Alaka‘i Plateau.

This project could not have happened without substantial state and federal partnership and funding. In particular, the Biden administration’s Investing in America Agenda committed nearly $16 million through the Department of the Interior to catalyze extinction prevention in Hawai‘i. This funding is part of the broader Hawaiian Forest Bird Conservation Keystone initiative. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is also a major supporter.

“This effort represents the culmination of decades of collaborative research between the Department of the Interior and State biologists, non-governmental organizations, and private enterprises,” says Dr. Dennis LaPointe, Research Ecologist at United States Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center. “The timely development of this safe and effective tool to suppress mosquito populations in forest bird habitats brings new hope for the preservation of the remaining Hawaiian honeycreepers.”

In 2024, the partnership will continue releases on Maui, expand releases on Kaua‘i, and prepare a Statewide Environmental Assessment. The State Department of Health will lead that assessment, which will address application of this method for both conservation and public health.

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

The Nature Conservancy, Hawai‘i and Palmyra: The Nature Conservancy is a global non-profit organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Informed by science and guided by traditional values and practices, we apply innovative, nature-based solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive. TNC has forged partnerships to manage 14 preserves and other sites in Hawai‘i and Palmyra Atoll, working with government, private parties and communities to protect Hawai‘i’s and Palmyra’s forests and coral reefs for their ecological value and for the many benefits they provide to people.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service works closely with partners to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats throughout Pacific Islands. The areas we help to protect include the state of Hawaiʻi, the Territory of Guam, the Territory of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the islands and waters located within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project (MFBRP): MFBRP is a project of the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit (PCSU) of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in association with Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). It is funded and supported by numerous partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nā Koa Manu Conservation Inc. MFBRP is driven by science and dedicated to the conservation of Hawaiʻi’s native forest ecosystems. Our mission is to develop and implement techniques that recover Mauiʻs endangered birds and to restore their habitats through research, development, and application of conservation techniques.

Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project (KFBRP): KFBRP is a project of the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit (PCSU) of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in association with Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). It is funded and supported by numerous partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DOFAW, and several other organizations and individuals. The Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project is committed to promoting knowledge, appreciation, and conservation of Kaua‘i’s native forest birds, all of which are unique to Hawai‘i; several are endemic to (found only on) Kaua‘i.

Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit (PCSU):  PCSU’s mission is to protect and restore Hawai‘i’s native species, ecosystems, and cultural resources. 

2024 is Ka Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele: The Year of the Forest Birds

2024 is Ka Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele: The Year of the Forest Birds, a time to celebrate the jewels of our Hawaiian forests. Our native forest birds are uniquely Hawaiian: they exist only in the Hawaiian Islands and nowhere else in the world. These birds have critical ecological roles as pollinators, seed dispersers, and insect managers of Hawaiian forests. Our forest birds are an inextricable part of Native Hawaiian culture in their roles as ʻaumakua (family deities) and messengers between akua (gods) and kānaka (people). Nā manu nahele are celebrated in mele (songs) moʻolelo (stories), ʻōlelo noʻeau (proverbs), kaʻao (legends), and in the creation of feather adornments including lei hulu.

Our nā manu nahele are at risk: of 84 forest bird species known from either the fossil record or human observation, an astonishing 58 species have gone extinct. Of the 26 species that remain today, 24 are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as vulnerable, near-threatened, threatened, endangered, or critically endangered, including the ʻio seen here (PC: Bret Mossman). To learn more about why Hawaiʻi has lost so many native birds and what is being done to save those that remain, explore below and come to one of our Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele events this year to meet the manu experts who help prevent extinction.

Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele is brought to you by a partnership of manu enthusiasts from DLNR Forestry & Wildlife, Kamehameha Schools, Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project, Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, the ʻAlalā Project, the University of Hawaiʻi Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death outreach group, Bishop Museum, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Birds Not Mosquitoes, the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, the Invasive Species Committees, Hawaiʻi Association of Watershed Partnerships, and the Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi.

Find all news and more information here: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dofaw/manu/

Resisting extinction – THE NEXT TOOL FOR SAVING KAUA‘I FOREST BIRDS FROM EXTINCTION INTRODUCED

(KOKE‘E-WAIMEA CANYON STATE PARK, KAUA‘I) – A dozen researchers and technicians last week began releasing incompatible male mosquitoes to try and stop the near-certain extinction of at least four species of Native Hawaiian honeycreepers. A first for Hawai‘i, the release took place just off a road on the Alaka‘i Plateau on Kaua‘i.

The release of 20,000 male mosquitoes is a pilot study. The day was tinged with excitement and no small measure of emotion, as many of the people involved have been working to save the honeycreepers and studying mosquitoes’ impact on them for more than a decade.

Female mosquitoes that carry avian malaria are moving higher and higher into honeycreeper habitat as temperatures warm. Previously, the region was too cold for mosquitoes. Now, they are transmitting avian malaria, which kills many honeycreepers rapidily, in the forests that were once the birdsʻ last refuge. One species, the ʻakikiki, has declined to as few as five or six individual birds living in the wild.

Dr. Cali Crampton, Project Leader of the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project (KFBRP) said, “I’m both sad and excited at the same time. Sad to know that our forest birds are suffering so greatly from these mosquito-borne diseases. But, after years of trying everything we can to save them from extinction, it’s a relief to know that we are at the cusp of launching a tool that can reverse those declines.”

The tool or technique is known as IIT, for Incompatible Insect Technique. Thursday’s releases are part of a pilot study and will inform the wider scale applications of IIT aimed at reducing mosquito populations in bird habitat.

The day began with two team members retrieving two large, cardboard boxes at the airport holding pods containing incompatible male Culex mosquitoes. The materials were examined by the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture.

After a quick stop to drop a small number of mosquitoes at the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) base yard in Līhu‘e, to act as data control for the insects being released in the forest, the entire team gathered in a small clearing in Koke‘e, laid a plastic tarp on the ground, and arranged 20 pods in preparation to release the male mosquitoes.

The team had already strung up what they call a bug dorm, a rectangular mesh enclosure which is the center of a longevity trial, to see how the male mosquitoes will survive after being released. Dozens of traps, surrounding the release site, are already in place. Over the next week the bug dorm and the traps will be checked regularly.

Bryn Webber, KFBRP Mosquito Research Coordinator, explained, “We’re looking at collecting data on how far they travel through the forest and how long they live. That information will be used for landscape-level releases to help determine how many pods to use and how the mosquitoes disperse across the landscape.”

Each pod holds 1,000 mosquitoes and once uncovered, most of them immediately fly away. It’s a little challenging avoiding the tendency to swat at them. But, no one got a single mosquito bite, because male mosquitoes are not able to bite.

Crampton is wearing one of her organizationʻs shirts which says, “Save a Bird, Swat a Skeeter.” She laughs, “I’m definitely not swatting any skeeters today because these mosquitoes are the savior mosquitoes. These incompatible males will breed with females on the landscape and prevent successful fertilization, so no second generation and no more eggs, causing their population to decline.”

The team is unified in its message, reminding people that male mosquitoes don’t bite, so they don’t spread diseases in birds or people.

Mele Khalsa, Natural Resource Manager on Kauaʻi with The Nature Conservancy, Hawaiʻi and Palmyra, commented, “Avian malaria is only carried by one species of mosquito, the female Culex quinquefasciatus, or Southern House mosquito. They are the only vector for this deadly disease of our avian friends, so we’re just looking to prevent the spread of this one mosquito.” She added this is not a ‘one and done’ project and will continue until mosquitoes are suppressed in honeycreeper habitats.

Allison Cabrera, with the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, spent the last three years in the field preparing for this day. She summed up the group’s feelings, “This is huge. We’ve done so much work and spent so much time to get to this point. It’s so exciting. We’re here finally. It’s great and it feels wonderful.”

Wildlife conservation agencies (state and federal) are one step closer to protecting forest birds from mosquito-borne diseases in Kauaʻi

HONOLULU — The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are one step closer to protecting forest birds from mosquito-borne diseases in key high-elevation native forest bird habitat on Kauaʻi, with their proposal to employ Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT) to reduce mosquito populations. A jointly prepared Environmental Assessment (EA) has been finalized and issuance of a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) at the state and federal levels.

 

Introduced diseases, particularly avian malaria spread by invasive mosquitoes, are the greatest threat to forest birds.  Just one bite can kill a forest bird. Implementing mosquito control is urgently needed to prevent extinction of Hawai‘i’s forest birds and is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Hawaiian Forest Bird Keystone Initiativeand supported with Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding.  The DOI offices and bureaus, working alongside the DLNR, the Native Hawaiian community, and many public and private partners are leading a comprehensive initiative to prevent extinction of additional Hawaiian forest birds. The use of IIT mosquito control is a critical component of a multi-pronged initiative and the DOI Strategy for Preventing the Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds.

 

IIT is a way to control insect pests, like mosquitoes, without using harmful chemicals. In Hawaiʻi, this technique involves releasing male mosquitoes that carry a different, incompatible strain of bacteria (Wolbachia) than what is present in the wild mosquito population. When these incompatible male mosquitoes mate with the wild female mosquitoes, the resulting eggs do not hatch, decreasing the mosquito population over time. This approach does not employ genetic engineering and does not involve or result in the genetic modification of either mosquitoes or bacteria.

 

“Already, 10 of the 16 native honeycreepers of Kaua‘i have gone extinct, and three of the remaining six species are endangered or threatened, with research documenting that the ʻakeke‘e and ʻakikiki would be driven to extinction within the next decade unless immediate action is taken.”, said Earl Campbell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office; “The Service’s purpose and need for the project is an urgent matter and directly supports DOI’s strategy that contributes to the recovery and conservation of several federally listed species, including the ‘akeke’e, ‘akikiki, puaiohi, and ‘i’iwi, as well as other avian species with concerning declines in population and range.”

 

The Service and DLNR jointly produced the draft EA, released on June 23, 2023, for a 31-day commenting period that concluded on July 24, 2023. On July 11, 2023, the Service, DLNR, and their partners, held an open house on Kauaʻi to dialogue with members of the community, receive public comments, and answer questions.

 

On September 22, 2023, the Service issued a FONSI to conclude the National Environmental Policy Act process and document the decision of the final EA. A FONSI is issued when environmental analysis and interagency review during the EA process find a project to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment. The statements and conclusions reached in the FONSI are based on documentation and analysis provided in the final EA.

 

The DLNR, a cooperating agency on this project, has prepared its own finding covering actions on state-managed lands and private lands within the project area. Today, the  Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources approved and issued a State FONSI, which concludes the Hawai‘i Environmental Policy Act process and enables DLNR to move forward with IIT mosquito control on State lands.

 

“Native honeycreepers like the ‘akikiki have literally crashed in their native habitats in the montane regions of Kaua‘i. The latest surveys conducted by the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project, only detected five remaining ‘akikiki in the wild,” said DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife Administrator David Smith.

 

Hawaiʻi’s native forest bird species have undergone precipitous declines and extinctions since the arrival of humans to the archipelago, particularly Europeans; 39 of the 56 native Hawaiian honeycreepers have gone extinct and 11 of the remaining 17 species are endangered or threatened. Although several factors have led to declines of these remaining species, the main threat to Hawaiian honeycreepers is currently avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum) and avian pox (Avipoxvirus spp.); nonnative diseases that are principally spread by the nonnative southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus). Until recently, there were no viable means available to control mosquito vectors at the landscape scale within natural areas in Hawaiʻi.

 

The DLNR manages 22 natural areas comprising the most intact habitats on Kauaʻi with the intent of safeguarding these habitats and species, as well as the cultural heritage associated with them. The proposed project would occur on approximately 59,204 acres (23,959 hectares) of forest reserves, state parks, and private lands in the Kōkeʻe and Alakaʻi Wilderness areas of Kauaʻi. This project is consistent with the statutory missions and responsibilities of the Service and DLNR.

 

To find the Final EA, the FONSI, Q&As and more information on IIT mosquito suppression in Kauaʻi, visit:

https://www.fws.gov/project/saving-kauai-forest-birds 

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/pacificislands, or connect with us through any of these social media channels at https://www.facebook.com/PacificIslandsFWS, www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/https://medium.com/usfwspacificislands or www.twitter.com/USFWSPacific.

 

Artwork by Joanna Maney

Action Alert | Submit testimony for OCTOBER 13 BLNR Meeting

Share your manaʻo by THIS THURSDAY, 10/12 on the Final Kauaʻi EA with the BOARD OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Aloha, friends of our nā manu nahele,

On October 13, 2023, the Department of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR-DOFAW) will be requesting the Board of Land and Natural Resources to approve the Final Environmental Assessment (EA) titled “Final Environmental Assessment for Use of Wolbachia-based Incompatible Insect Technique for the Suppression of Non-native Southern House Mosquito Populations on Kauaʻi”. DLNR-DOFAW prepared this Final EA with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as a cooperating agency.

DLNR-DOFAW requests the Board approval of this Final EA and authorization for the Chairperson to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for this effort to stabilize and recover populations of critically endangered Hawaiian forest birds on the island of Kauaʻi.

To prevent the extinction of Kauaʻi’s nā manu nahele, we, together with DLNR-DOFAW and the numerous partners within Birds, Not Mosquitoes are proposing to control invasive mosquitoes that spread diseases like bird malaria. Mosquito control would be implemented on a landscape level in critical forest bird habitats in Kauaʻi.

Send an email to  blnr.testimony@hawaii.gov for written testimony or find instructions for oral testimony here: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/meetings/blnr-meetings-2023/

Mahalo nui for raising your voice for nā manu nahele.

Me ka mahalo piha,

Kaua’i Forest Bird Recovery Project

ALL HANDS EFFORT TO SAVE KAUAʻI BIRDS FROM EXTINCTION

Bird experts on Kauaʻi are using all the tools in their toolbox to keep critically endangered forest birds from going extinct. One honeycreeper species, ʻakikiki, could disappear from the wild this year due to mosquito-borne avian malaria, with another species, ʻakekeʻe, not far behind. Warmer climates in recent years have allowed invasive mosquitoes to move to higher elevations, increasing the risk of disease to native forest birds. While conservation partners wait for final approval of a proposed mosquito birth control, also known as the Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT), they are stepping up their use of other, more traditional tools to give the birds a lifeline. 

Hawaiian Honeycreeper Celebration Day 8.08 Designated by Hawaii Legislature

After multiple rounds of testimony from students across the state, the Hawaii State Legislature designated 8.08 as Hawaii Honeycreeper Celebration Day. Events to celebrate our honeycreepers are taking place across the state this month. For a full list of events, you can check out the event listing on the Birds Not Mosquitoes website, where you can also learn more about the testimony given by our own Kaua’i students.

ALL HANDS EFFORT TO SAVE KAUAʻI BIRDS FROM EXTINCTION

Bird experts give honeycreepers a lifeline while waiting for mosquito birth control

Bird experts on Kauaʻi are using all the tools in their toolbox to keep critically endangered forest birds from going extinct. One honeycreeper species, ʻakikiki, could disappear from the wild this year due to mosquito-borne avian malaria, with another species, ʻakekeʻe, not far behind. Warmer climates in recent years have allowed invasive mosquitoes to move to higher elevations, increasing the risk of disease to native forest birds. While conservation partners wait for final approval of a proposed mosquito birth control, also known as the Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT), they are stepping up their use of other, more traditional tools to give the birds a lifeline.

August 8 is legislatively designated as Hawaiian Honeycreeper Day, and it’s the day the team from the Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project (KFBRP) is taking to the skies to expand use of two naturally-occurring bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis (sold commercially as “Dunk”) and Bacillus sphaericus, to prevent mosquito larvae from hatching in the uplands of Kauaʻi.

These bacteria are harmless to humans but deadly to mosquito larvae. They’re found in soil worldwide, and are widely used in organic agriculture and water treatment. While project staff have used Bacillus to control mosquito larvae for years, it has traditionally been applied by hand while hiking across the many streams and valleys of the Alakaʻi wilderness. Adding an aerial approach allows the team to address a larger area and hopefully save more birds.

Dr. Cali Crampton of KFBRP said, “The increased use of Bacillus should provide a stopgap for ʻakeke’e, allowing the species to avoid extinction long enough to benefit from the proposed mosquito birth control tool. Both Bacillus and the IIT birth control use bacteria to suppress mosquitoes. The two tools are separate but work together to address different parts of the mosquito life cycle: the Bacillus bacteria kill mosquito larvae, while different strains of the Wolbachia bacteria used in IIT result in unviable eggs that never hatch into larvae.

While conservation partners are currently focused on helping birds, people should also see benefits from increased efforts to suppress mosquitoes in Kauaʻi’s mauka regions.

The combined use of organic bacteria and other integrated pest management efforts, such as fixing potholes in roads and overturning containers of standing water, should help popular hiking and camping areas in Kōkeʻe and the Alakaʻi to once again become mosquito-free.

Check out the frequently-asked questions for more information.

Illustration by Kelly Sinclair Vicars.

Bacillus-FAQ-for-Kauai