Effort underway to save Hawaii's native duck

By Nana Ohkawa
Published On: Jun 04 2014 04:12:32 PM HST
Updated On: Jun 04 2014 08:31:49 PM HST

Efforts are underway to save the "koloa maoli." The species is native to Hawaii but its numbers have been declining for years. Experts say there are only about 2,500 left in the wild.

HONOLULU -

Hawaiians are taking steps to save the state's native duck.

The native Hawaiian duck, koloa maoli, is being pushed out of existence.

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A female koloa maoli recently arrived at the Honolulu Zoo. The population of the duck has been declining for years, and experts said they believe only about 2,500 are left in the wild.

Biologists blame excessive hunting, loss of habitat and the mallard duck for the decline.

"The mallard duck has the green head and white ring around its neck. That was brought here for sports hunting and domestic purposes, and that has escaped into the wild, and now it's hybridizing, cross-breeding with the native Hawaiian duck," Division of Forestry and Wildlife representative Stephen Turnbull said.

Since there are more mallards compared to koloas, the native Hawaiian duck is being pushed out of existence.

It's easy to mistake the the endangered species for the mallards, but koloas are smaller in size and have a richer brown color.

Researchers said they're working to determine how to grow the population. One plan would be to remove the mallards.

"One step is to stop encouraging mallards. Most domestic mallards can't live in the wild. They can only live because they are getting fed by people," Turnbull said.

Another plan is to build self-sustaining populations of koloas on other islands. Ninety percent of the population lives on Kauai.

"This bird, koloa, aren't found in North American zoos. One of the few institutions, and we have female and need to find logistics to acquire a male bird," Hololulu Zoo bird curator James Breeden said.

"It would be very arrogant of us to think that we can wipe a species off the face of the Earth and think that it doesn't matter or that we have the right to do so. It's a moral responsibility for future generations," Turnbull said.

Researchers hope to have a plan of action within the next year. They hope to get the koloa population back up to 10,000.

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