In addition to the new `alala aviaries being built at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, there have been significant renovations made to one of the `alala aviary complexes at the Maui Bird Conservation Center.
In 1975, the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) set up the first captive flock of `alala on the Big Island at Pohakaloa. `Alala were moved to the island of Maui in 1986 where they were installed in the converted Olinda minimum security prison. Two large aviary complexes containing eight aviaries each were built to house and breed the newly arriving `alala. In 1996, the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program was requested by DLNR to assume the management of the facility, and the center’s name was changed to the Maui Bird Conservation Center (MBCC).
The aviaries at MBCC were originally built with untreated and unprotected (i.e. unpainted) lumber. Unfortunately, after nearly 20 years of exposure to Hawaii’s moist and warm climate, the aviaries and their mosquito netting began to deteriorate, risking the escape of birds as well as providing ingress to mosquitoes and other pests. The integrity of the mosquito netting is important to prevent infection from mosquito-borne diseases. The aviaries needed an upgrade quickly before birds were lost. With only 40 birds in captivity (the entire world population!) there was no time to lose. The cost of replacing the rotting lumber and decayed mosquito netting was generously provided by our conservation partners: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
Alan Lieberman is the program director for the San Diego Zoo’s Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program.
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