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US declares 23 species extinct, including 9 in Hawaii

The U.S. government on Wednesday declared 23 more birds, fish and other species extinct. Hawaii has the most species on the list.
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 10:22 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 11:24 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Of the 23 species the U.S. government declared extinct his week, nine were indigenous to Hawaii.

No other state or U.S. territory has more species on the extinction list ― due in large part to Hawaii’s biodiversity. Eight of the Hawaii species are woodland birds and is a plant.

The most recent to go extinct was the poouli, a honeycreeper discovered in 1973.

By the late 1990s just three remained — a male and two females.

After failures to mate them in the wild, the male was captured for potential breeding and died in 2004. The two females were never seen again.

The other species declared extinct in Hawaii were:

  • Kauai akialoa (bird), last confirmed sighting in 1969
  • Kauai nukupuu (bird), last confirmed sighting in 1899
  • Kauai oo (bird), last confirmed sighting in 1987
  • Large Kauai thrush (bird), last confirmed sighting in 1987
  • Maui akepa (bird), last confirmed sighting in 1988
  • Maui nukupuu (bird), last confirmed sighting in 1996
  • Molokai creeper (bird), last confirmed sighting in 1963
  • Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis (plant), last confirmed sighting in 1914

The fate of Hawaii’s birds helped push Duke University extinction expert Stuart Pimm into his field. Despite the grim nature of the government’s proposal to move more species into the extinct column, Pimm said the toll would probably have been much higher without the Endangered Species Act.

“It’s a shame we didn’t get to those species in time, but when we do, we are usually able to save species,” he told the Associated Press.

Since 1975, 54 species have left the endangered list after recovering, including the bald eagle, brown pelican and most humpback whales.

Climate change is making species recovery harder, bringing drought, floods, wildfires and temperature swings that compound the threats species already faced.

How they are saved also is changing. No longer is the focus on individual species, let alone individual birds. Officials say the broader goal now is to preserve their habitat, which boosts species of all types that live there.

“I hope we’re up to the challenge,” said biologist Michelle Bogardus with the wildlife service in Hawaii. “We don’t have the resources to prevent extinctions unilaterally. We have to think proactively about ecosystem health and how do we maintain it, given all these threats.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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