Maui News

State Investigating Dead, Missing Albatross at Kaʻena Point

December 31, 2015, 1:42 PM HST
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Albatross killed at Kaena, on nest with egg found at Kaena 12/29/15. Courtesy photo DLNR.

Albatross killed at Kaena, on nest with egg found at Kaena 12/29/15. Courtesy photo DLNR.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is investigating the deaths of three Laysan albatross and numerous destroyed nests in the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve on the northwest tip of the island of O‘ahu

The initial report was made by a concerned citizen on Monday, and a site visit was conducted yesterday by an officer from DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and a natural area reserve specialist and seabird biologist.

State officials say that as of last week there were 75 active nests at Kaʻena. A completed nest inventory yesterday revealed that there were a total of 15 nests that were destroyed with either smashed, dead, or missing eggs. Of these nests, 12 of the attending adults are missing and bodies of three adult birds were found. Seabird monitoring cameras and sound equipment are also missing with a replacement value of $3,100.

According to the DLNR, normally in a nesting pair, one parent always stays on the nest to incubate the egg while the other forages – they never leave an unattended egg, so the fact that 12 nests were unattended by an adult is suspect.

Albatross foot found at Kaena 12/29/15. Courtesy photo: DLNR.

Albatross foot found at Kaena 12/29/15. Courtesy photo: DLNR.

DLNR is working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement office and Honolulu Police Department on the investigation.

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State officials say the three adult carcasses were taken for necropsy to US Geological Survey Honolulu office for a necropsy identify cause of death. This process is expected to take several weeks.

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The Laysan albatross is listed as near threatened under the IUCN Red List, is a federally protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and protected under state wildlife rules.

Authorities say they face a number of threats including by-catch in long-line fisheries, ingestion of plastics and predation by introduced mammals.

Kaʻena offers a high island nesting site that is safe from sea level rise, vitally important to a species facing impacts from global climate change. Kaʻena Point is also the main albatross nesting site on Oʻahu and one of the best studied albatross colonies in the world as all of the individuals have been banded providing unique information on individual life histories.

Albatross flying photo credit: Tingman. Photo courtesy: DLNR.

Albatross flying photo credit: Tingman. Photo courtesy: DLNR.

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Suzanne Case, DLNR director said, “DLNR, with the support of north shore and leeward coast communities, and recreational users of Kaʻena Point State Park, has devoted considerable time, care and action to improve the coastal sand dune habitat at Kaʻena Point Natural Area Reserve – including installation of a predator prevention fence in 2011 to keep out dogs and cats – and preserve a safe environment for seabirds to nest, and where people can view them from a safe distance. This is why seabird populations, such as the Laysan albatross, have been able to increase in recent years.”

“We ask the community to join with us to ensure safe and responsible conduct in both the state park and natural area reserve to protect our wildlife and dune environment, and to prevent any further recurrence of this disturbing violence,” she said.

Tommy Friel, DOCARE Chief, said “Not only is the loss of these adults a serious wildlife crime, but it will impact the future population of this colony as well.”

DLNR is asking anyone who may have witnessed any persons or vehicles in the Kaʻena Point natural area reserve between Sunday evening Dec. 27 to Monday morning Dec. 28 to contact Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement at 643-DLNR. Federal penalties are up to $15,000 per incident and up to one year in prison while state penalties include fines up to $10,000 for the incident and up to $5,000 per animal harmed.

State officials say wildlife organizations and concerned citizens across the state are saddened by this event and with the help of DLNR, are offering a $10,000 reward for the successful arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this crime.

Laysan albatross nest primarily in Hawaii (99%) and are very loyal to their breeding areas. They nest on the ground, making them particularly vulnerable to predation by dogs and cats. Female albatross only lay a single egg each year. Adults can live more than 60 years.

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