Photo worth seeing: Hawaiian Birds in Danger

Photo worth seeing: Hawaiian Birds in Danger
© A. Boone/ National Park Service

This Amakihi’s world is upside down. The Hawaiian forest bird and its relatives are currently fearing deadly avian malaria, which is carried by invasive mosquitoes. But maybe the birds can be saved.

Avian malaria is a parasitic disease caused by unicellular blood parasites. A single bite from an infected mosquito is fatal to some Hawaiian turquoise birds. The US National Park Service therefore estimates that four species of these small woodland birds will become extinct in the next decade. Nine other bird species are also threatened with extinction.

The malaria-transmitting mosquitoes also hit the birds so hard because they are not native to Hawaii, but were introduced. The immune system of the birds is therefore not prepared for the diseases transmitted by the mosquitoes. Some Hawaiian birds have managed to evade mosquitoes by taking refuge in colder, high-altitude areas. But due to rising temperatures, the mosquitoes are now feeling at home there too and are threatening the remaining populations.

But there is hope. With the help of a state financial injection of 14 million US dollars, the US authorities now want to prevent the extinction of the ecologically and culturally important birds. To this end, they plan, among other things, to relocate forest birds to habitats that are still mosquito-free at higher altitudes and to expand care stations for forest birds in captivity. Biotechnology research is also planned to target mosquitoes, inhibit disease transmission and make birds more resistant to malaria.

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