The Nene has endured a long struggle against extinction. During the 1940s, this beautiful species was almost wiped out by laws which allowed the birds to be hunted during their winter breeding seasons when the birds were the most vulnerable.
By 1957, when the Nene was named as Hawaii’s State Bird, rescue efforts were underway. Conservationists began breeding the birds in captivity in hopes of preserving a remnant of the declining population and, someday, successfully re-establishing them in their native habitat.
Early programs for returning captive-bred birds to the wild proved difficult, but recent efforts have been very successful. There are now small but stable populations of Nene on the islands of Hawai’i, Maui, and Kaua’i.
According to the Hawai’i Audubon Society, the Nene, currently on the Federal List of Endangered Species, is threatened today by introduced mongooses and feral dogs and cats which relentlessly prey upon the Nene’s eggs and young. Preservation efforts are continuing and the success of the Nene in Hawai’i, although not a certainty, is promising. There are now about 800 wild Nene in Hawai’i and the numbers are rising with each breeding season.