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The perils of a tropical crow.

What's so special about the Hawaiian crow called Alala? Only 11 adults and one nestling exits in the wild--a number that puts the bird in extreme jeopardy of extinction, according to a new report.

The Hawaiian crow (Corvus hawaiiensis) may die out in the next decade or two if its numbers don't increase, warns a report issued last month by the National Research Council (NRC). "This species is going to be right on the edge for a number of years," says Scott Derrickson of the National Zoological Park's research center in Front Royal, Va., one member of a scientific panel appointed by the NRC to study the endangered crow.

The panel advises against trying to breed adult birds in captivity. Instead, it recommends boosting the crow population by removing eggs from nests in the wild. Biologists would then nurse those eggs in laboratory incubators and release young birds into the forest.

That strategy would not deprive wild birds of their offspring, because once scientists filch the eggs, mother birds simply lay another batch, the report notes.

The NRC report recommends setting aside at least one new forest preserve in the Kona District, on the west side of the island of Hawaii. The panel blames deforestation as a major cause of the extinction threat faced by the Hawaiian crow, which builds its nest in tall trees and eats native fruits.

Hawaii has the distinction of being the "extinction capital of the world," according to the report. Native Hawaiian plants and animals make up a substantial portion of the U.S. list of endangered species, the NRC adds.

What good does it do to save one species of crow? "It's very important," says Derrickson, noting that efforts to help Alala might help other native Hawaiian species as well. "If habitats can be preserved on the Kona coast, that's going to benefit a lot of other endangered plants and animals," he says.
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Title Annotation:Alala, Hawaiian crow
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 27, 1992
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