Nēnē gosling reunited with parents after snatching incident
A nēnē family was reunited and relocated last week after an illegal capture and removal of its gosling from Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo, state officials report.
On Thursday, Raymond McGuire of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife received a call from Hawai’i Island resident Lilinoe Kahalepauole saying that she saw a woman grab a nēnē gosling from the small boat ramp at Wailoa. Kahalepauole reported that the woman was feeding the chick’s parents, who were distracted by the food, when the woman allegedly grabbed the gosling, threw it in a bag, and drove off.
While on the phone with McGuire, Lili, and her husband, followed the alleged offender while the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and the Hawai‘i Police Department were called in to assist.
“We see a lady come out of the vehicle and she throws a big bunch of bread and of course all the geese and the ducks come running towards her. We just figure they’re feeding the ducks. Next thing you know, not even five minutes later, they’re leaving. My husband said, “I think she took the nēnē.”
Kahalepauole and her husband followed the car and were in contact with DOCARE and HPD until Chen’s vehicle was stopped and the gosling was found in an onion bag. “My husband was so concerned that the baby nēnē couldn’t breathe in that bag,” she said.
While the Kahalepauole’s helped officers locate the woman’s car, their three teenaged sons stayed behind in the park and helped a DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife biologist capture the gosling’s parents.
Kahalepauole said, “Even my toddler knows not to feed the nēnē or not to get close to them. It was heart-wrenching to see that it was adults that did something like this. If you’re a local here, you know not to touch the nēnē. You shouldn’t be there, or you shouldn’t be even attempting to do something like what these individuals did. You’re stealing a live animal and it was really heartbreaking because I felt like they were going to take the baby nēnē to eat.
McGuire said, “The Kahalepauloe family really stepped up to make things right. They saw something happening that didn’t seem right and called the right people to help save this nēnē family. We stress that nēnē need to be kept wild in order to thrive. By feeding nēnē at Wailoa or anyplace else, these birds become used to people. Once habituated, the nēnē cannot tell the difference between a person that wants to help or cause harm, so it made it very easy for the nēnē gosling to be taken.”
The nēnē family is currently in an isolation pen at the Hawaiʻi Island Nēnē Sanctuary, where it is being monitored to make sure the ordeal did not interrupt the family’s bond.
State officials say the alleged offender is Meiqin Chen, who was cited for three violations and is scheduled to appear in Hilo District Court on May 19.
Anyone who witnesses wildlife harassment is encouraged to call the 24-hour DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR or by the DLNR Tip app. Reporting incidents involving protected species, like nēnē can also be done through DOFAW at 808-974-4221.