What’s zoo: Two ‘alala at exhibit when Panaewa reopens

  • Courtesy of Daniel Dennison, State of Hawaii One of the 'alala cocks it's head in the aviary at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo.

Next week, two ‘alala will begin welcoming guests back to the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens after its 16-month closure.

Two male ‘alala, named Pano Pau and Loli‘ana, have moved into a new exhibit at the zoo to serve as ambassadors for the species that has been revered in Hawaiian culture and is Hawaii’s only surviving native crow species.

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The birds were brought to the zoo by way of The ‘Alala Project, a conservation breeding program that has been propagating the crow with the goal of restoring the species, which was once considered extinct.

Partners of the project have attempted to reintroduce the species into native forests after the last bird in the wild was spotted decades ago.

When the population grew large enough, ‘alala were reintroduced into the Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve on Hawaii Island between 2016 and 2019.

“With those release efforts, we learned many lessons,” said Rachel Kingsley, an education and outreach specialist for The ‘Alala Project. “Unfortunately, we were unable to continue those release efforts primarily due to increased predation threats by ‘io, or the Hawaiian hawk, which is the ‘alala’s natural predator. So the program has been taking a step back, looking at next steps and trying to determine what’s next for the species.”

Pano Pau and Loli‘ana will not be bred and will reside at the zoo to educate visitors about the rare and curious crow.

The zoo’s newest exhibit will help tell the story of the birds, as well as the story of the conservation reintroduction efforts happening for species across the islands.

“This is so exciting, because there is nowhere else in the world you can see ‘alala,” said Pat Engelhard, president of the Friends of Pana‘ewa Zoo. “They are curious crows that are expressive and will look you right in the eye and caw in a way like they are speaking to you.”

After meeting with Kingsley over a year ago, the Friends of the Pana‘ewa Zoo began to raise the money needed to build the aviary for the ‘alala. Hawaii County recently accepted the donation of the new exhibit.

“It is very rewarding to see this come together, and we’re really excited for visitors to meet the ‘alala,” Engelhard said. “It’s a nice exhibit, and I think everyone will enjoy it.”

The ‘alala aviary was constructed while the county completed other construction projects and renovations to bring the zoo in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The zoo will be reopening to the public with an opening ceremony hosted by the county at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 19.

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After reopening, the zoo will operate from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week. Admission will be free.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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