Some of the “world’s rarest” geese were struck and killed by speeding drivers at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, officials said.
Three nēnē were hit by cars within the national park in two weeks, park rangers said Thursday. Two of the birds were part of a breeding pair.
“It is tragic that three rare nēnē are dead because of speeding or inattentive motorists in the park, especially a mated pair at the start of breeding and nesting season,” Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh said in a news release. “We need everyone to slow down, watch out for wildlife and understand that the park is their habitat.”
Several nēnē have also eaten piles of rice, crackers and food park visitors have left behind in parking lots and other areas, rangers said.
Park officials could shut down a parking lot to visitors if the geese continue to wander near cars, the National Park Service said.
“Nēnē are the largest native land animals in Hawai‘i and the world’s rarest goose,” park rangers said. “They are present in the park and other locations in Hawai‘i year-round, but the October through May breeding/nesting season is crucial for their survival.”
In October, nēnē are focused on finding food and nesting. They are more active in the park during the breeding season, which makes them more vulnerable to getting struck by cars.
The nēnē population was dwindling in the past, according to the National Park Service. Park officials started conservation efforts to reintroduce the geese to the area.
Now more are found through Hawaii, the only place the goose is native.
“By 1952, only 30 birds remained statewide,” park rangers said. “The Nēnē Recovery Program continues today, and around 165 birds thrive in the park from sea level to around 8,000 feet. Nearly 3,500 nēnē exist statewide.”