TCBES Natural and Cultural Resource Seminar Series - Event Details

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This event has concluded and is no longer current.

This event has concluded and is no longer current.

TCBES Natural and Cultural Resource Seminar Series

Location: Wentworth 1

Saving Hawai‘i’s forest birds: translocations, climate change, and landscape-scale mosquito control

Dr. Chris Farmer, Hawai‘i Program Director, American Bird Conservancy

There were once more than 55 species of endemic honeycreepers in Hawai‘i. Today there are only 17 species remaining, and the Kiwikiu on Maui and ‘Akikiki on Kaua‘i have less than 500 individuals left. Well-known threats such as habitat degradation and invasive species, including non-native predators, have all contributed to this major loss of biodiversity. There are fewer than 312 Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill; Pseudonestor xanthophrys) remaining across < 30 km2.

The USFWS has recommended establishing a second population to provide protection from severe weather events or other catastrophic loss within the species’ small current range. The first releases of captive and wild Kiwikiu into Nakula Natural Area occurred in October 2019. After several days of normal behavior at Nakula, eventually nearly all of the birds fell victim to avian malaria, one of the major killers of forest birds in Hawai‘i and one of our greatest challenges to saving the honeycreepers.

As climate continues to warm, mosquitoes and malaria are rapidly expanding their populations into the previously safe high elevation refugia of the native birds. The Kiwikiu translocation is one example of this, as is the collapse of six out of seven native songbird species on Kaua‘i. Standard chemical control methods are not appropriate on a landscape scale in Hawai‘i due to the non-target risks to the environment and public health.

However, the Incompatible Insect Technique, using a naturally occurring bacteria, Wolbachia, is an effective alternative that can reduce insect populations by interrupting their reproduction. This method is used in the US and worldwide to reduce mosquito populations and disease transmission, while enhancing public health and quality of life. Scientists and conservationists are developing this tool to protect Hawai‘i’s forest birds, and collaboratively working on all the components necessary to apply this technique on the landscape to protect the Kiwikiu and Hawai‘i’s other endangered birds.

All are welcome!

For more information, contact: (808) 932-7573

Tags: birds research seminar tcbes hawaiian forest birds honeycreepers avian malaria mosquitos conservation wolbachia

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