Fuzzy ducklings are the future of this Hawaiian species

May 18, 2015, 12:58 p.m.

19 new ducklings signal a positive start to conservation efforts

In 2014, Hawaii's DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife moved 28 young wild Laysan ducks, an endangered species, to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. The goal was to establish a new breeding population on Kure and reestablish the species on islands where it was historically found to have disappeared.

It looks like these first efforts have been met with great success since this breeding season, staffers from the agency counted 19 new ducklings.

A lot of work went into getting Kure Atoll ready for its new residents, including pulling weeds, planting native plants, and removing invasive species of animals including rats and ants. Invasive rats, which were brought over around 800 years ago, were one of the primary reasons Laysan ducks began disappearing from the Hawaiian islands. By 1911, there were fewer than 20 birds. Significant restoration efforts brought the population back up to nearly 1,000 birds. However, the population was reduced by 40 percent in 2011 due to the Japan tsunami.

That event is exactly why reestablishing populations on different islands is so important to the future of the species. The ducks can't fly between islands, so having breeding populations on multiple islands is part of avoiding a catastrophic event wiping out the species. Just as you don't put all your eggs in one basket, you don't put all your ducks on one island.

For Laysan ducks, all the work that went into restoring Kure's habitat and bringing wild ducks to the island is paying off, as these tiny downy ducklings prove.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.