State investigating albatross deaths in Kaena Point reserve

Photo courtesy DLNR

The Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Wednesday that it is investigating the deaths of three Laysan albatross and numerous destroyed nests in the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve.

Thanks to a report made by a concerned citizen on Monday, an officer from DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, accompanied by the natural area reserve manager, a natural area reserve specialist and a seabird biologist, conducted a site visit Tuesday.

Photo courtesy DLNR
Photo courtesy DLNR

As of last week, there were 75 active nests at Kaena. A completed nest inventory yesterday revealed that there were a total of 15 nests that were destroyed with either smashed, dead, or missing eggs. Of these nests, 12 of the attending adults are missing and bodies of three adult birds were found. Seabird monitoring cameras and sound equipment are also missing with a replacement value of $3,100.

Photo courtesy DLNR
Photo courtesy DLNR

“We had evidence that several of the birds had their feet cut off,” said Thomas Friel, chief of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement. “It was in such a way that we believe it not to be predation from a wild animal, but rather from humans.”

Normally in a nesting pair, one parent always stays on the nest to incubate the egg while the other forages – they never leave an unattended egg, so the fact that 12 nests were unattended by an adult is suspect.

The three adult carcasses were taken for necropsy to U.S. Geological Survey Honolulu office to identify cause of death. This process is expected to take several weeks.

DLNR is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement office and Honolulu Police Department on the investigation. The department is asking anyone who may have witnessed any persons or vehicles in the Kaena Point natural area reserve between Sunday evening, Dec. 27, to Monday morning, Dec. 28, to contact Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement at 643-DLNR (2567).

Federal penalties are up to $15,000 per incident and up to one year in prison while state penalties include fines up to $10,000 for the incident and up to $5,000 per animal harmed.

Wildlife organizations and concerned citizens across the state are saddened by this event, and with the help of DLNR, are offering a $10,000 reward for the successful arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this crime.

Albatross

Laysan albatross nest primarily in Hawaii and are very loyal to their breeding areas. They nest on the ground, making them particularly vulnerable to predation by dogs and cats. Female albatross only lay a single egg each year. Adults can live more than 60 years.

The albatross is listed as near threatened under the IUCN Red List, is a federally protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and protected under state wildlife rules. They face a number of threats including by-catch in long-line fisheries, ingestion of plastics and predation by introduced mammals. Kaena offers a high island nesting site that is safe from sea level rise, vitally important to a species facing impacts from global climate change.

Kaena Point is the main albatross nesting site on Oahu and one of the best studied albatross colonies in the world as all of the individuals have been banded providing unique information on individual life histories.

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