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Rare bird species teeters on brink of extinction with only 5 remaining

Rare bird species teeters on brink of extinction with only 5 remaining A rare species of birds may completely disappear (Collage by RBC-Ukraine)
Author: Daria Shekina

A small gray bird called akikiki inhabits Hawaii, and in the wild, only five species remain. This bird is at risk of disappearing from the face of the Earth in the next few months, according to CNN.

Tiny gray birds called akikiki are honeycreepers that inhabit the cool and lush mountains of Kauai, Hawaii. For many years, these birds thrived in this area. However, rising temperatures due to climate change have filled their habitat with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, leading to catastrophic consequences.

"The populations have basically taken a nosedive over the last 15 to 20 years as the climate has changed and mosquitoes are going higher and higher in elevation," says Hannah Bailey, wildlife care manager of the Hawaii Endangered Forest Bird Conservation Program for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

Lacking resistance to diseases transmitted by these mosquitoes, the birds fall victim to avian malaria, which is "almost always lethal to most adult honeycreepers.

Conservationists are increasing efforts to rescue this species from extinction, creating an insurance population at bird conservation centers on the islands of Kauai and Maui.

"Our mission is to provide safe haven populations of the species that are in peril, so that when the environment is right for them to survive long-term, we’ll be able to re-release them," added Bailey.

Only five of them are left. A rare bird species could completely disappear from the world.

Rare bird species teeters on brink of extinction with only 5 remainingRare akikiki bird (Photo: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance)

Recently, their team has left hope of capturing at least a few birds and moving them to a safe place. They are currently focused on collecting unhatched eggs.

Each breeding season, the team heads to the mountain plateaus of Kauai and searches for tree canopies using a camera mounted on a long pole. This summer, the team successfully rescued 10 eggs, which were placed in an incubator and delivered to the Bird Conservation Center.

Currently, approximately 50 akikiki are under the care of experts at the center, ranging from chicks to adult birds. The rescued individuals will live in special aviaries with a simulated natural environment.

There, they will be protected from mosquitoes, and their interaction with humans will be highly restricted. Once the threat of avian malaria is eliminated, the birds will be released into the wild.

Avian malaria threatens not only the survival of akikiki but also other forest bird species that are disappearing. In Hawaii, there used to be over 50 species of honeycreepers, small birds that feed on nectar and insects. Now, only 17 species remain, as many populations were decimated by diseases carried by mosquitoes.