New Donation Helps UH Researchers ‘Protect the Sounds of the Forest’

September 26, 2019, 10:00 AM HST · Updated September 23, 1:53 PM
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A research team at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo received a $50,000 grant to protect the critically endangered ‘Alalā, the Hawaiian Crow.

The donation comes from the Disney Conservation Fund, which has distributed over $75 million to nonprofit organizations around the world for wildlife conservation efforts over the past 24 years.

An endemic species that once dwelled throughout Hawaiʻiʻs forests, ʻAlalā have been extinct in the wild since 2002.

According to a press release from the university, the ʻAlalā has great cultural and ecological significance to Hawaiʻi.

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Through intensive conservation efforts, the UHH researchers raised and released 16 ʻAlalā.

“Establishing a self-sustaining wild population of ʻAlalā will require flexible and innovative management strategies,” UHH professor Dr. Kristina Paxton said in the release.

Scientists have observed that ʻAlalā have complex communication patterns that are learned over a birdʻs lifetime. These vocalizations help birds develop survival behaviors, such as avoiding predators and attracting a mate.

Researching these communication patterns could help scientists improve the process of re-entering ʻAlalā into the wild.

Paxton said the award will help the team “find out if captive reared ʻAlalā are developing new vocalizations as they adapt to new situations encountered in the wild. This information will greatly assist in the conservation efforts of ʻAlalā.”

The DCF award will also boost outreach efforts to raise awareness on the importance of forest conservation for ʻAlalā and other endangered species.

“Our work is perfectly suited for education and outreach by bringing the sounds of the forest to
the people,” UHH biology professor Dr. Patrick Hart explained in the release.

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