As the captive population of `alala grows, it becomes necessary to increase the number of aviaries to accommodate the additional birds. The species is now considered to be extinct in the wild, so every effort must be made to maintain and, indeed, increase the number of birds in the managed captive flock in preparation for the future release of the birds into protected managed habitat.
Two new `alala aviaries are under construction at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center. They follow a similar pattern to the 10 aviaries that were built previously. The aviaries measure 20 feet by 50 feet, and are covered by a combination of hardware cloth and mosquito netting, which offers protection from mosquitoes that carry avian pox, malaria, and West Nile virus. These aviaries have proven to be very successful both in maintaining adult birds and in the effort to propagate the species. The captive flock, now maintained at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers, totals 40 birds, with the most recent addition of four chicks hatched and reared in 2003.
Alan Lieberman is the program director for the San Diego Zoo’s Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program.
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