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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Mate of dead nene at Hilo park to be monitored

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Staff Writer

In the wake of Sunday's killing of an endangered Hawaiian goose, state wildlife officials in Hilo, Hawai'i, said yesterday they will be monitoring the victim's mate and will consider moving the bird to a refuge if it acts erratically.

Joey Mello, a state Department of Land and Natural Resources wildlife biologist, said agency officials will be relying on residents near Leleiwi Beach Park — the nene's home and site of the killing — to watch out for the female.

"Nene mate for life, so there's some heartbreak. She just might wander off into a bad situation," Mello said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement is continuing its investigation into the attack Sunday that killed the 4-year-old male goose.

The nene is protected by state and federal law. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, anyone who harms a protected animal faces a fine of up to $50,000 and/or a year in prison.

A witness who lives across the street from the park said a boy about 7 or 8 years old smashed the nene with a rock Sunday afternoon.

Deborah Ward of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said enforcement officers want to talk to the boy's parents. Anyone with information should call investigating officer Alan Akau at (808) 974-6208.

Mello said the breeding pair moved to Leleiwi about a year ago, having originally come from the Kea'au refuge on the W.H. Shipman estate, where about 75 nene live. That these two birds decided to live elsewhere is testament to the success of the refuge, he said.

The nene were a popular and friendly feature of the Hilo beach park, residents said.

Mello said the death of the young nesting pair is "a serious insult to the population" of the endangered birds, which numbers only several hundred on the Big Island.

But Mello said he's worried about the mental state of the creature, which was honking mournfully following the death.

"She might wander off. She might land in a yard with a pit bull and eat from the dog's dish. If she seems like she might put herself in harm's way, then we'll have to take her to a different location," he said.

Reach Timothy Hurley at thurley@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 244-4880.