Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Hawaii’s State Bird is On the Road to Recovery

December 18, 2019

Contact(s):

Megan Nagel, megan_nagel@fws.gov, (808) 792-9530



After 60 years of effective collaborative conservation efforts among federal, state, NGOs and local partners the Hawaiian Goose, or nene, is one step closer to recovery. An intensive captive breeding program, rigorous habitat restoration, and active management strategies have led to the nene's return from the brink of extinction. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a decision to downlist the nene from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).         

“It took decades of hard work and remarkable partnerships to bring the nene back from the brink of extinction,” said Robyn Thorson, Regional Director for the Service’s Pacific Region. “Collaborative conservation efforts like this are the key to success in protecting and recovering Hawaii's native species.”

By the mid-twentieth century, fewer than 30 nene remained in the wild on a small area on the island of Hawai'i. A further 13 birds survived in captivity. The nene was listed as an endangered species in 1967 on the first ever list of federally protected species, 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 nene 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 individual birds with stable or increasing populations on Kaua'i, Maui and Hawai'i Island and an additional population on Moloka'i.

As nene continue to increase in numbers and expand their range, they inevitably face increased interaction and potential conflict with landowners and businesses. Therefore, in addition to the downlisting, the Service has finalized a rule that would allow additional flexibility for landowners to manage nene on their property. This rule, under section 4(d) of the ESA, allows some types of actions that are normally prohibited under the ESA as long as those actions are consistent with conservation of the nene. Along with the downlisting, the 4(d) rule gives landowners management flexibility without reducing the effectiveness of conservation actions or the recovery of the species.

Collaboration continues to be the key to the Service’s success in recovering imperiled wildlife. The Service is actively working with diverse partners to conserve imperiled species and to work toward fully recovering them so they can be removed from listing under the ESA. Downlisting species as they meet their recovery goals ensures we are continuing to use our resources to protect the most at-risk species.

For more information and links to the federal register documents visit https://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/.
For photos and video of nene visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/albums/72157664275053107


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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