Rat feeding on bird eggs. Photo by Jack Jeffrey photo.

Rat feeding on bird eggs. Photo by Jack Jeffrey

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources teamed up with the University of Hawai‘i and a nonprofit organization to come up with a creative alternative to save Kaua‘i’s endangered species: Fundraising at Indigogo.

The Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project — a collaborative project of DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, UH Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit and Garden Island Research and Development Inc. — has launched a crowdfunding and outreach campaign to generate support for protecting the native birds of Kaua‘i by controlling rats with humane, self-resetting rat traps.

The campaign “Birds, not Rats!” is hosted at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/protect-hawaii-s-stunning-endangered-forest-birds/.

Puaiohi, or Small Kaua‘i Thrush. Photo by Lucas Behnke.

Puaiohi, or Small Kaua‘i Thrush. Photo by Lucas Behnke

It runs through Jan. 31, with goals of increasing awareness of the threats that rats pose to birds and native ecosystems, and raising at least $10,000 for rat control through many small, individual donations.

Hawai‘i is at the epicenter of the current global extinction crisis. Of the original 130-plus native Hawaiian bird species, many have been lost forever, and only 11 are not yet endangered.

Today, Kaua‘i is home to eight native forest bird species, three of which are federally listed as endangered: the Puaiohi or Small Kaua‘i Thrush, the Akeke‘e or Kaua‘i Akepa, and the Akikiki or Kaua‘i Creeper. Populations of these birds have plummeted as much as 90 percent in the last five years; the Akikiki and the Puaiohi now number fewer than 500 birds, and the Akeke‘e numbers fewer than 1,000 individuals. The Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project’s goal is to reverse these declines.

Akeke‘e or Kaua‘i Akepa. Photo by Lucas Behnke

Akeke‘e, or Kaua‘i Akepa. Photo by Lucas Behnke

DOFAW has identified rats as a major threat to these birds in their native habitats, said Thomas Kaiakapu, DOFAW Kaua‘i wildlife program manager.

“We have found rats in the most remote parts of the forest, where they feast on bird eggs and attack nesting female birds,” Kaiakapu said.

Rats also destroy the native vegetation by feeding on the bark, fruits, and flowers of native Hawaiian trees and shrubs. Thus, they also compete with native birds for food.

A simple and very effective way to control the rat population in the forest is to set humane Goodnature® traps, according to DOFAW.

Akikiki or Kaua‘i Creeper. Photo by Lucas Behnke

Akikiki, or Kaua‘i Creeper. Photo by Lucas Behnke

“KFBRP successfully tested these traps at our study site last spring,” KFBRP Project Coordinator, Dr. Lisa Crampton said. “With 37 traps donated by the American Bird Conservancy, we eradicated over 100 rats in three months with minimal human effort, but we need many more to make a real impact on the birds. Unfortunately, given cuts in federal support for endangered species conservation, we are lacking the funds to purchase more traps.”

The goal, through crowdfunding, is to amplify KFBRP’s ability to protect native birds by controlling the rat population in the heart of the Alakaʽi Plateau on Kaua‘i with the purchase and installation of an additional 25 Goodnature® rat traps.

“With support from many individual donors, we can realize our objective of protecting our forest birds, and help reverse their declines,” Crampton said.

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