Sunday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, announced the downlisting of Hawaii’s state bird, the nēnē at Pearl Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. After 60 years of effective collaborative conservation efforts among federal, state, local and nonprofit partners, the Hawaiian Goose, or nēnē, is one step closer to recovery. An intensive captive breeding program, rigorous habitat restoration and active management strategies have led to the nēnē’s return from the brink of extinction. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a decision to downlist the nēnē from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“Today’s announcement highlights the progress the Endangered Species Act intends to deliver,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Through collaboration and hard work the nēnē is out of intensive care and on a pathway to recovery.”
By the mid-twentieth century, fewer than 30 nēnē remained in the wild on the island of Hawai‘i with another 13 birds in captivity. The nēnē was listed as an endangered species in 1967 and in the decades following, nearly 3,000 captive-bred birds were released at more than 20 sites throughout the main Hawaiian Islands. The release of captive-bred nēnē on national wildlife refuges, national parks and state and private lands has saved the species from imminent extinction.
Today, there are more than 2,800 birds with stable or increasing populations on Kaua‘i, Maui and Hawai‘i Island and an additional population on Moloka‘i.
“While we pause to celebrate this hard-won milestone for Hawai’i’s state bird there are many more species, plants, and animals, here in Hawai`i that are equally imperiled as the nēnē once were,” said Robert Masuda, the First Deputy for the Hawai’i Dept. of Land and Natural Resource. “Hawai`i is the endangered species capital of the nation with over 500 federally-listed threatened or endangered species and which will all need equal attention and effort from all of us to reverse their current courses toward extinction.”