Once almost extinct, the Hawaiian Nene has made a comeback thanks to the efforts of dedicated conservationists.
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
Proverbs 27:12 NLT
What’s a Hawaiian Nene?
“Pull over!” I urged Pedro, “but be careful. I see nene!”
He cautiously pulled to the side of the road. “Where?”
“Right there!” I pointed to two stout geese waddling over the volcanic rocks. “They don’t have leg bands, so they must not be part of the conservation efforts. How awesome to see some hanging out in the wild.”
“Cool,” Pedro said while I rolled down the rental car window and proceeded to take photos. He doesn’t bird with the same level of enthusiasm as I do, but he enjoys a good underdog story.
In 1949, only 43 Branta sandvicensis, or Hawaiian Nene, survived. Thirteen of those birds belonged to private individuals. No one counted the number of nene on the Island of Hawai’i before European contact in 1778, but some estimate a robust population of over 25,000 lived on the different Hawaiian Islands.
An endemic species (it only occurs naturally in one place), the state of Hawai’i made Branta sandvicensis its state bird. When the population in the wild reached alarmingly low numbers, the state intervened to save them.
Conservationists and government agencies identified the primary causes of the nene’s near extinction. Habitat loss from farming and ranching, along with introduced species that prey on the nene, such as dogs, cats, mongooses, rats, and pigs. The loss of habitat makes it difficult for nene to find safe places to nest and forage for their young. Introduced species eat eggs and goslings.
It took citizens such as Herbert Shipman, other countries (England), the state of Hawai’i, and other government agencies to become the savers of the nene. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 helped as well by providing federal protection to the nene and other animals and plants in peril.
From the Brink of Extinction
From 43 remaining nene in 1949, the population has grown to over 3000 individual birds. All because someone saw the danger of allowing yet another species to go extinct. Despite all we know about the world and the plethora of information available, we have no idea how many species exist on planet earth.
Scientists discover (catalog and name) about 18,000 (that’s not a type-o) new species a year. At the same time, an estimated 200 to 2,000 species go extinct each year. Hawai’i has lost more endemic species than any other state.
The story of the Hawai’ian nene shows how people can work together to reverse the damage they’ve done. It may take decades, but it can happen. Why should we care? In Matthew 10:29, Jesus tells us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside of your Father’s care.”
God cares about his creation—from the insects to the plants, from the nene to the people. All creation matters to him. And if all creation matters to him, shouldn’t all creation matter to us?
Father God, help me to understand your tender care for all your creation. Show me ways to love those I don’t understand. Help me value all creation—not just the parts I understand.