DLNR Press Release – 3,000 Birds and a Lifetime Commitment to Wildlife Rehab
Posted on October 21, 2022 in Current Department News, Newsroom
(Kapa’au, Hawai’i Island) – On any given day, the Hawai’i Wildlife Center (HWC) has 20-30 patients. Many of the injured birds and bats that arrive here were injured by things man made such as golf balls, power lines, cars, guns and poisons. Add cats, dogs, mongooses and rats to the long list of things that threaten both forest birds and seabirds.
More than a decade ago, Linda Elliott, President and Founder of HWC, was concerned that Hawaii was the only state in the country that didn’t have a wildlife sanctuary for shot birds. “Here we were, working in the world capital of endangered species, and lacking a care resource for our native wildlife. In the 1990’s, filling that need became my mission. Now, ten years after opening, we have treated 3,000 feathered patients and some bats.”
Today, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case presented HWC with a DLNR & YOU Citizen Conservationist Award for her tireless, professional work. “Although the wildlife center is on the island of Hawaii, injured birds come from all the other main islands. Each year, HWC cares for 600 to 700 wedge-tailed shearwaters from O’ahu alone, with those in need of longer-term care being flown to the main Kap’au facility for evaluation, rehabilitation if necessary, and release,” commented Case.
Right now and through mid-December is the time of year when shearwaters are shot down. Demonstrating the center’s nationwide reach and influence, Elliott said, “The Shearwater fallout season keeps us very busy, as does that manu-o-ku program in urban Honolulu. Also known as white terns or fairy terns, orphans who cannot be returned to their nests are flown to us and then we conduct a gentle release in partnership with the Honolulu Zoo,” explained Elliott.
The stories of treatment, care, rehabilitation and hopefully discharge are limitless. In August, HWC vet Dr. Juan Guerra Raymond McGuire of DLNR’s Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) to release a pair of nēnē (native Hawaiian geese) on the island of Hawaii
“Our ultimate goal is to bring birds back into the wild. Every time we release birds my spirit is renewed. We have good days and bad days in the center. Some days we need to help a bird by ending its suffering. On other days we witness the triumph of liberation,” commented Dr. guerra.
McGuire added, “Even with nēnē who are through rehab, whether it’s a golf ball hit in the leg or an injured or amputated wing… in which case they would need to be euthanized… we’re lucky to have this combination of HWC DOFAW Hospital and predator-proof sanctuary where birds can be released to live out their lives safely in their natural habitat.”
HWC President Elliott notes that last year 88% of the birds and bats the center cared for were either released or are in permanent care. “In wildlife rehabilitation, success rates can typically be around 50%. It depends on the health of the animal. The sooner it’s found, the sooner we get it treated, the better the prognosis.”
There are numerous aviaries on the site, in addition to the hospital building and visitor information displays. In one is three-year-old Maka’io, a native Hawaiian falcon (i’o). He came to HWC with an eye injury and a wing injury. The wing has healed but he is blind in his right eye.
dr Guerra explained, “This bird can fly. Birds of prey like ‘io need binocular vision to make sure they don’t miss anything. They don’t do well in the wild if they can’t see with both eyes.”
He trains Maka’io daily to prepare him to move into his own aviary in the future, where he can fly wherever he wants thanks to his training with the good doctor. “We want to give him the best possible life and as much opportunity to make his own decisions,” Guerra said.
“That is the overarching philosophy and the result of everything the Hawai’i Wildlife Center does,” commented Chair Case. “We are proud to have them as partners in the vital work of caring for our native wildlife.”
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(All images/videos courtesy: DLNR)
HD Video – Ten Years & 3,000 Patients (Web Feature):
HD Video – Hawaii Wildlife Center & Hawaii Island Nēnē Sanctuary (media clips):
(shoot sheet attached)
HD Video – Hawai’i Wildlife Center DLNR Tour and Awards Ceremony (Oct 21, 2022):
Photos – Hawaii Wildlife Center (July 20, 2022):
Photos – Releases of the Nēnē Sanctuary on the island of Hawaii (August 5, 2022):
Photos – Hawai’i Wildlife Center DLNR Tour & Awards Ceremony (Oct 21, 2022):
Senior Communications Manager
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources