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Indigenous birds fly with Hawaiian Airlines to move to Mexico

Kaupu bird.jpg
Pacific Rim Conservation
Pacific Rim Conservation
A Kaʻupu chick pictured while scientists moved them through the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Hawaiian Airlines is helping transport Indigenous bird eggs to an island off the coast of Mexico to protect them from sea-level rise.

The black-footed albatross, or Kaʻupu, are big seabirds largely residing in Papahānaumokuākea.

Hawaiian Airlines and Pacific Rim Conservation have been moving chicks and eggs of black-footed albatross to Isla Guadalupe for the past two years. The island is where the birds go to gather food, and there is already a colony of a different species of albatross known as Laysan albatross, or Mōlī.

The Kaʻupu eggs nesting on the edge of the Midway atoll are in danger of being washed away.

The team carried the eggs in custom portable incubators while the chicks were transported in padded boxes.

"The eggs and chicks are incredibly sensitive, so we had to manage everything around them and minimize the number of hands that touched them. We took them through check-in, TSA — which was especially concerning because they had to go through the x-ray machine," explains Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, director of community and cultural relations at Hawaiian Airlines.

All but four of the 57 eggs brought to Isla Guadalupe have hatched. Of the 12 chicks, nine survived and are starting a new colony on the island.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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