With all eyes on Mauna Loa eruption, park officials celebrate separate rare discovery

Officials released new footage of a young akeake, showing the fluffy fledgling emerging from...
Officials released new footage of a young akeake, showing the fluffy fledgling emerging from its high-elevation burrow on Mauna Loa about a month before the eruption began.(Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 4:31 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With all eyes on the Mauna Loa eruption, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is also celebrating another rare discovery.

In September, a dog named Slater, of Hawaii Detector Dogs, sniffed out an ʻakeʻake nest on Mauna Loa — the first confirmed burrow identified in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

ʻAkeʻake is an endangered nocturnal seabird, with only 240 pairs known in Hawaii.

After Slater located the ʻakeʻake nest (and three Hawaiian petrel nests), crews installed cameras to monitor the burrows.

Officials on Tuesday released new footage of a young ʻakeʻake, showing the fluffy fledgling emerging from its high-elevation burrow on Mauna Loa about a month before the eruption began.

“Biologists in the park have known of the presence of ʻakeʻake on Mauna Loa since the 1990s,” said biologist Charlotte Forbes Perry. “In 2019, ʻakeʻake burrow calls were recorded during acoustic monitoring which indicated nesting.”

Slater and his trainer and handler Dr. Michelle Reynolds.
Slater and his trainer and handler Dr. Michelle Reynolds.(Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)

She added that the lack of visual signs at their nest sites make them extremely difficult for humans to find.

ʻAkeʻake, also known as band-rumped storm petrel, nest on isolated islands but spend the rest of their lives at sea.

Their global population is estimated at about 150,000.

Officials said the ʻakeʻake are protected within the park’s 644-acre fence and not threatened by the current Mauna Loa eruption.

While attention has been on the eruption, scientists and conservationists say they’re equally enthralled by the new discovery.

“We are ecstatic by these finds, and detector dogs are an invaluable resource to help locate these elusive birds,” Forbes Perry said.