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On May 16, 2012 03:01AM ET in Green 101
The official bird of the Aloha State is the NeNe goose (pronounced Nay Nay.) At one time, they were highly endangered with a population of just 30 in the entire world. These days Hawaii is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to relocate the geese away from the airport runways in the Garden Island of Kauai.
The state officials want to ensure the geese are not being killed from airplanes or that they don’t disrupt any flights that come in. So over the course of a few months’ biologists and officials have gathered 300 geese and relocated them to the big island and Maui via helicopters and coastguard plane. In their new home, they will be safe from harm in an established area with sturdy fences that will keep out predators like the mongoose, cats, and wild pigs.
The state department of transportation has funded $4.7 million to relocate the geese over the next 5 years. The reason for decline in population was threats from feral and wild animals and Polynesian farmers that came to the islands nearly 1000 years ago. In 1952 there were only 30 left which prompted the state to breed them in captivity and eventually brought their population to 2,000 today.
“It’s great to reach the point in the recovery where your biggest problem is you have too many birds,” said Scott Fretz, wildlife program manager at the state Department of Natural Resources. “I wish I had similar problems with more of our endangered species.”
During 2008-2010, officials were reported seeing the Nene’s in over 5,000 incidents at the airport. People would have to shoo them away with kayaks and catch them in nets to get them to move out of the way. They were mostly hanging out near the south end of the runway, which is a critical area for the planes to take off.
The biodiversity of Hawaii is very unique in that Hawaii’s flora and fauna shows us how evolution in isolation can lead to vulnerability and extinction. Native species are particularly affected by introduced species, habitat loss and fragmentation. To get a better idea of just how much biodiversity loss has occurred, the Hawaii Natural Heritage Program tracks 30 vertebrates, 102 invertebrates, and 515 plants that are considered to be “critically imperiled globally.” New Jersey is roughly the same size of Hawaii and they only track 3 vertebrates, 14 invertebrates, and 21 plants. Hawaii also happens to be home to one third of the country’s endangered avian species.
With the increasing numbers of Nene’s and careful monitoring, they may just move off the endangered list in a few years. Wildlife biologists are thrilled that they have a predator-free habitat that is being managed by the state divisionary of Forest and Wildlife. Getting them off Kaua’i's Lihu’e Airport and to safe havens on other islands will be great for their protection and safer for the passengers boarding the planes since birds can cause complications if impacted with propellers. An update on the Hawaiian state bird will hopefully make headlines soon when they are delisted from being endangered.