Other Animals
Alala crow
Hawaiin Crow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Nature and catastrophic events often go hand in hand. We have heard tales of hurricanes and efforts to protect aviaries and bird centers that were in the middle of them. We’ve witnessed the tragic event of the Australian bushfires that decimated many species of creatures, including threatening exotic birds that lived within the region and heavily depended upon the habitats that were destroyed. In many cases, these events are unavoidable and depend upon the bravery of people to bring help and support in the face of the events. Recently, the Lahaina region of the Hawaiian island of Maui experienced tragic loss of human life, of properties, and many creatures trapped by the raging fires caused by a downed power line and worsened by the arrival of Hurricane Dora.

Flames Fan Around Conservation Center

The Maui Bird Conservation Center, which is located about 2 and a half miles northeast of Kufa, a village in Maui, faced the threat of the flames as they approached the important Bird Conservation Center. Inside the center are contained some of the world’s rarest birds. To have to face such an additional existential threat is beyond imaginable as the center strives to preserve birds near extinction. But face the threat they did, and they did it with bravery beyond words.

Jennifer Pribble, a conservationist placed at the center by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, was awakened by a neighbor to the news of the approaching fire. To keep the center from being engulfed and destroyed, she and the neighbor managed hoses to prevent the flames from taking over. They also used fire extinguishers to help in the battle. Forty minutes later, fire personnel arrived to assist in the effort to prevent the spread of the fire that was only 150 feet from the doors.

'akikiki songbird, Hawaiian songbird
‘Akikiki songbird
Photographer: Carter Atkinson, USGS, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s why the Conservation Center is so important and the heroic actions of Jennifer Pribble, and the Center’s neighbor so laudable. The Center is home to threatened Hawaiian birds that are found nowhere else. In fact, the center houses the extinct in-the-wild alalā (Hawaiian Crow), and the rare ‘akikiki songbird (also called the Kauaʻi creeper songbird), whose population has been devastated by mosquitoes and malaria. There are around 80 of the rare birds kept here, with others housed in another facility on the island of Hawaii to prevent total devastation of the species.

After the fire was contained, the fear shifted to trees that had been engulfed by flames and that were in danger of falling onto the center. The birds were moved from the center to the barns to further ensure their safety. One of the aviaries and a building were damaged by falling trees, which prompted the removal of the birds until everything could be assessed for safety. After a week of firefighting, the blaze has been brought under control. The Conservation Center has been offered as a place of rest and shelter for rescue workers.

ALL the birds within the center are currently safe with much thanks to the critical thinking, prowess, and fast actions of the resident conservationist and the center’s neighbor. There are multiple ways of helping Maui in this time of need. There are links to Red Cross, the Maui Food Bank, the Maui Humane Society, and others that you may find with a quick search across the internet. We at Lafeber applaud the extraordinary bravery of all involved responders, including that of Jennifer Pribble and her neighbor.

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