HONOLULU (AP) – The year’s first alala, Hawaii’s last remaining native crow species, has hatched at a conservation center run by the San Diego Zoo as part of an alala reintroduction program.
The first chick of the 2016 breeding season hatched over the weekend from an egg laid on March 4 that was incubated by staff at the center, KHON-TV reported. More eggs are expected to begin hatching in early April.
“This first hatching of the season is the earliest we have on record,” said Bryce Masuda, a manager at the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program. He said there’s a possibility the chick could be among the birds released into the wild this fall.
Scientists plan to reintroduce alala, which have been extinct in the wild since 2002, to the Big Island’s forests in September. The birds have been preserved only in the reintroduction program operated by the zoo at its conservation centers in Keauhou and Maui.
Alala, which forage in undergrowth, face several threats in the wild, including feral cats, rats, mongooses and the Hawaiian hawk.
The birds’ release will follow a failed attempt in the 1990s, when 27 birds went freed in South Kona. Twenty-one alala died due to disease and predation, and the remaining six were recaptured.
Biologists will monitor the birds’ progress and plan to release 12 alala each of the next five years.