The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday proposed downlisting the Hawaiian goose, or nene, from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The nene was first protected in 1967 and has been the subject of a concerted recovery effort, including captive breeding, predator control and habitat protection.
“Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, the nene is well on its way to recovery,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, endangered species recovery director at the Center for Biological Diversity and former field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Hawaii. “This landmark law helped bring our state bird back from the very edge of extinction. It’s a real testament to the Act’s effectiveness.”
The nene is believed to have evolved from the Canada goose and once occupied nearly all of the Hawaiian islands. The bird’s numbers dropped to just 30 animals on the island of Hawaii by 1960. Today, there are more than 2,800 hundred birds spread across Hawaii, with 1,095 on the Big Island, 616 living on Maui, 35 occupying Molokai, 1,107 on Kauai, and two on Oahu.
The nene retains protection as a threatened species based on ongoing threats from non-native predators such as mongooses and cats, habitat destruction and vehicle collisions.
“The nene still faces threats and needs ongoing protection, but the immediate risk of extinction appears to have been reduced,” said Mehrhoff. “The story of the nene is not unique since the Endangered Species Act is working right now to save hundreds of species across the country.”
A 2016 report put out by the Center for Biological Diversity found that 85 percent of continental birds and 61 percent of Pacific Island species have stabilized or increased after protection under the Endangered Species Act.