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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 30, 2009

Laysan albatross colony at Kuaokala goes missing

Advertiser staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Only empty spots remain where last month there were 20 adult birds, 15 chicks and several nests of eggs. The Laysan albatross is a protected species and it is illegal to kill one.

Department of Land and Natural Resources

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Wildlife biologists from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources are investigating the disappearance of a Laysan albatross colony at Kuaokala in the northern Wai'anae mountains.

DLNR staff monitoring the little-known colony of up to 50 birds discovered Tuesday that all of the birds had disappeared.

On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined state biologists in searching for the birds, but found nothing. The colony is fenced for protection and investigators found no bird remains. Remains are a typical indicator of predation by pigs or dogs.

According to DLNR, the lack of carcasses and the absence of adult birds, which come back even when chicks are not present, may indicate human interference. Biologists plan to return to the area with specially trained dogs to try to find carcasses.

In February, biologists counted 15 chicks, six nests with eggs, and 20 adults in the colony.

The Laysan albatross is protected by state and federal laws under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and is one of the few native seabird species that still nest in the main Hawaiian Islands, according to DLNR. It is illegal to kill or possess the birds.

Because a Laysan albatross does not breed until it is 8 years old, and will raise only one chick per year, it can take decades for a new colony to form.

Anyone with information about suspicious activities at Kuaokala between Feb. 13 and March 23 is asked to call the DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement at 643-3567 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement division at 861-8525.