There are many challenges in incubating and hatching `alala eggs: the flock suffers from a notably high incidence of embryonic death, including failure to hatch. (See post Endangered Species Propagation Challenges). As an example, the earlier egg from the same clutch developed full term, but the embryo failed to make the external pip in the shell and appears to have suffered from incorrect positioning during the hatching process.
Despite the frequent heartbreak and sleepless nights that accompany the task of propagating `alala, we have been delighted by the hatching of two additional chicks, which hatched on May 3 and May 6 respectively. Together, these three “clutchmates” bring the world population of `alala up to a total of 70 known birds.
`Alala chicks can be particularly problematic during their first few weeks of life, which we strongly suspect to be the result of inbreeding within the very shallow gene pool; some chicks hatch weak, or with what appears to be a compromised immune system or even with congenital abnormalities. Therefore, we must proceed with great caution during the hand-rearing process.
There will undoubtedly be trials and tribulations ahead, but with several fertile eggs in the incubator, and with a number of females still to lay their first clutches, these three youngsters have provided us with a great source of encouragement at this early stage of the breeding season.
Richard Switzer is a conservation program manager for the San Diego Zoo’s Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program. Read his previous post, Akepa: End of an Era (But What a Life!).
‘Alala #160 hatches.
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