Pair of ‘alala brings Hawaiian crow’s legacy to the community

  • Contributed by state Department of Land and Natural Resources

    An ‘alala greets visitors to the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Garden in Hilo on Hawai‘i Island.

HILO — Pano Pau and Loli‘ana began greeting visitors to Hawai‘i Island and the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens with their distinctive calls and their curious looks.

The young male birds are ambassadors for the endangered species.

“We are honored to bring a symbol of resilience, collaboration and dedication to our Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Garden in Hilo,” said Hawai‘i Island Mayor Mitch Roth.

Rachel Kingsley, the education and outreach specialist for The ‘Alala Project, said, “This is going to be a great opportunity for everyone to see the ‘alala in person. It is a great chance to get more people to become aware of the ‘alala and who they are and see such a really amazing bird, an amazing species that you might not be able to ever see again.”

For many years, a conservation-breeding program managed by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, has been propagating ‘alala. The partners of The ‘Alala Project have attempted to reintroduce ‘alala into native forests after the last bird in the wild was spotted decades ago.

The population grew to the point where, in 2016, forest-reintroduction efforts were started. A number of birds were reintroduced between 2016 and 2019 into the Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve on Hawai‘i Island.

“With those release efforts, we learned many lessons,” Kingsley said.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to continue those release efforts primarily due to increased predation threats by ‘io, or the Hawaiian hawk, which is the ‘alala’s natural predator. So, the program has been taking a step back, looking at the next steps and trying to determine what’s next for the species.”

At the Hawai‘i-County-owned-and-operated Pana‘ewa Zoo, visitors can see, hea, and learn more about the species. ‘Alala, like all crows, are considered highly intelligent, social and curious.

Visitors to the zoo are able to see these traits by spending a few moments staring into their eyes. The new ‘alala exhibit will help tell the story of these birds, found only in Hawai‘i, as well as the story of conservation-reintroduction efforts happening for multiple species around the islands.

“We hope visitors will gain a better understanding of the importance of ‘alala out in the forest,” Kinglsey said. “They have a unique role, including being ‘builders of the forest’ as they spread seeds across the landscape.”

The zoo has been closed for renovations for nearly a year. Improvements included the construction of the new exhibit which was funded by The Friends of the Pana‘ewa Zoo. All exhibit signage was created using funds donated to The ‘Alala Project. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except for Christmas and New Years Day. Admission is free.

  1. Sami August 1, 2021 6:21 am Reply

    If there are only a couple boys left, let’s bring in female crows from a similar size and let them breed. Then cross breed the babies from the different boys and keep the line alive at least!!

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