How a Big Island family aided in recovery of nene gosling

DLNR photo This gosling was found in an onion bag after being taken from a Hilo park.

A nene family was reunited and relocated last week after an illegal capture and removal of its gosling from Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo.

Raymond McGuire of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Thursday received a call from Hawaii Island resident Lilinoe Kahalepauole saying that she saw a woman — later identified as Meiqin Chen — grab a nene gosling from the small boat ramp at Wailoa.


Kahalepauole reported that Chen was feeding the chick’s parents, who were distracted by the food, when Chen allegedly grabbed the gosling, threw it in a bag, and drove off.

While on the phone with McGuire, Lili and her husband followed Chen while DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers and the Hawaii Police Department were called in to assist.

“We see a lady come out of the vehicle, and she throws a big bunch of bread, and of course all the geese and the ducks come running towards her,” Lili Kahalepauole told the DLNR. “We just figure they’re feeding the ducks. Next thing you know, not even five minutes later, they’re leaving. My husband said, ‘I think she took the nene.’”

Kahalepauole and her husband followed the car and were in contact with DOCARE and HPD until Chen’s vehicle was stopped. The gosling was found in an onion bag.

“My husband was so concerned that the baby nene couldn’t breathe in that bag,” she said.

While the Kahalepauoles helped officers locate Chen’s car, their three teenaged sons stayed behind in the park and helped a DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife biologist capture the gosling’s parents.

Kahalepauole added, “Even my toddler knows not to feed the nene or not to get close to them. It was heart-wrenching to see that it was adults that did something like this. If you’re a local here, you know not to touch the nene. You shouldn’t be there, or you shouldn’t be even attempting to do something like what these individuals did. You’re stealing a live animal and it was really heartbreaking because I felt like they were going to take the baby nene to eat.”

“The Kahalepauloe family really stepped up to make things right. They saw something happening that didn’t seem right and called the right people to help save this nene family,” McGuire said. “We stress that nene need to be kept wild in order to thrive. By feeding nene at Wailoa or anyplace else, these birds become use to people. Once habituated, the nene cannot tell the difference between a person that wants to help or cause harm, so it made it very easy for the nene gosling to be taken.”

The nene family is currently in an isolation pen at the Hawaii Island nene sanctuary, where it is being monitored to make sure the ordeal did not interrupt the family’s bond.

Chen was cited for three violations and is scheduled to appear in Hilo District Court on May 19.

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