Its population has plummeted in recent years. Now the ‘i’iwi finally has federal protections

Its population has plummeted in recent years. Now the ‘i’iwi finally has federal protections

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A native bird in Hawaii known as the 'i'iwi is now protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Also listed Tuesday: Arizona's Sonoyta mud turtle and a Southeast fish called the pearl darter.

Conservationists have been working for years to get the species listed for federal protections.

"We're thrilled these three endangered species are finally getting the protections they so desperately need to survive," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "We worried that Trump administration political appointees would block the Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting any species, but for at least these three, this is a good day."

The 'i'iwi — also known as the scarlet honeycreeper — is a medium-sized honeycreeper that lives in native forests of ohia and koa.

The bird was once widespread throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but the species is now primarily restricted to high-elevation areas on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai because of habitat destruction and the spread of avian pox and malaria by mosquitoes, which were introduced to the islands.

The 'i'iwi has survived at high elevations, primarily over 3,600 feet, because it is too cold there for mosquitoes and the deadly diseases they spread.

But with climate change, mosquitoes are moving uphill and are predicted to cover most remaining 'i'iwi habitat as the climate continues to warm.

The 'i'iwi has seen a 92 percent decline on Kauai in the past 25 years and a 34 percent decline on Maui.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for its protection in 2010.

Hawaii has long been known as the "extinction capital of the world." Of the nearly, 1,450 endangered animals and plants in the US, more than 500 are endemic to Hawaii.

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