A group of alala chicks were given thorough medical exams last week at San Diego Zoo Global’s Keauhou Bird Conservation Center in Hawaii.
The chicks, all male, underwent exams as part of the preparation to be the first of their species to be reintroduced into the forests of Hawaii Island since the species went extinct in the wild in 2002. The group represents individuals that hatched during this past breeding season and are between 4 and 6 months of age.
Although one of the chicks did not pass the health exam due to a possible cardiac anomaly, the other five were strong and active.
“The birds each received a thorough physical exam and were given a vaccination for West Nile Virus, in case this disease arrives in the islands soon,” said senior veterinarian Deena Brenner. “It is important for all of the birds to have good health and fitness so that they have the greatest opportunity for success when they are released.”
The next step in the program will be moving these chicks to the release site where they will be given time in an aviary to adjust to their new surroundings. A second group of birds, expected to be all female, will be prepared for a second release in a few months time.
Following a population crash in the late 20th century, the alala is currently extinct in the wild. In a last-ditch effort to preserve the species, the remaining wild birds were brought to the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program, to launch a breeding program.
The program is a field program of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, in partnership with the State of Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.