Going Wild: Nene at the Honolulu Zoo

Published On: Mar 21 2014 07:25:35 PM HST   Updated On: Mar 21 2014 10:36:24 PM HST

They roam wild on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, but here on Oahu the state bird serves as a tool for those learning about endemic Hawaiian species.

Click here to watch Ashley Moser's story.

At only three months old baby Pohina's having a bit of an identity crisis.

"She was hand reared and often times when they are hand-reared, birds will become imprinted. So, she's still trying to figure out if she's a goose or a human," said James Breeden, a nene keeper.

She is a goose, no doubt about that. She will figure it out soon and she is also the newest addition to the Nene population at the Honolulu Zoo.

There are now a total of 2,500 in the state; a huge improvement from a population of just 30 back in 1952.

"We're able to bring nene into captivity and to start a successful breeding program. Later they introduced those species into the wild," said Breeden.

The nene is believed to have descended from the Canadian Goose species arriving in Hawaii 500,000 years ago. Even though there are clear similarities between the two birds, keepers say the nene have adapted to their tropical environment.

If you take a look at Pohina's neck it has a gray color. In Hawaiian, pohina means misty or gray, but in a year she will get black and white stripes when she becomes an adult.

"That can help them be more camouflage. It's not as bright, so if they are hiding in the vegetation, it's more of a color of sticks and debris. They can hide from predators," said Breeden.

But he says that does not always work. Breeden says the bird is constantly in danger.

"Rats eat their eggs, cats eat the goslings and they also take some adult," said Breeden.

With Breeden's efforts, along with other zoo keepers, they are working to save the nene.

"It's a real special experience. Just being able to keep the species alive and going," said Breeden.

The nene does have webbed feet like its brother the Canadian Goose, but the bird hardly goes in the water.


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