The environments importance is keeping our collective home in good shape.
The Hawaiian crow or ‘alalā is a medium-sized raven, 18 to 20 inches in length. The sexes are similar in color and size. The ‘alalā is a duller black than its North American cousins, with brown-tinged wings, and the throat feathers are stiff with hairlike webs and grayish shafts. The bill and legs are black. They were once known to be on all of the Island.
Since 1973, there has been extensive research on the ‘alalā. They were once abundant in the lower forests of the western and southern sides of the island of Hawaii. When coffee and fruit farmers began shooting them in the 1890s, their population was already declining. By 1978, only 50 to 150 crows were believed to exist. Disease, predation by alien mammals, and loss of suitable habitat due to grazing and logging are also factors in the decline of the Hawaiian crow. The last two ‘alalā vanished from their territory in South Kona in 2002.*
The Hawaiian Crow, known as Alala, is to me is a great symbol of the worlds environmental problems on many levels.
This bird, with no natural predators cannot be found across the remote Islands of Hawaii as in the past. However, with the introduction of disease, pollutants and deforestation, the crow can no longer survive in the wild.
This project evolved around my long life admiration of tropical Hawaiian birds, which I have been painting since 1976, on the advise of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. Recently, I had the opportunity to donate one of my pieces to raise funds and awareness towards the plight of this endangered species of crow. Furthermore, this project has been backed by H.H Karmapa –who Leslie and I have been working with since 1992. His Holiness the 17th Karmapa’s work in the Himalayan regions –including the Khoryug Project- are having positive effects, especially with his added efforts. He is a major advocate for the protecting the environment!
I have put time, effort and passion into this project with the added help from H.H Karmapa. Crows are a strong symbol in Tibetan Buddhism and are visualized as an incarnation of Mahakala, whose name literally means the ‘Great Black One.’ Many cultures worldwide crows (ravens) play a prominate roll in their mythology, Hawaii is no exception.
This raven is now being released in a secure area predator-free Puʻu Makaʻala Natural Area Reserve. This is a test of what can be done to save endangered spieces. A recent news article:
After painting the Alala bird during my recent visit to India, while interviewing His Holiness the 17th Karmapa for the film I am currently co-producing, called: "Thongdrol", His Holiness kindly inked his calligraphy onto the painting.
"May all beings be happy"
This project has three goals.
1. May this project promote the massive loss of species on Earth in this age,
and help play a part in our worlds cleanup.
2. The painting will be sold and all those funds go to Hawaii's bird conservancy project.
* Us Fish and Wildlife Service
Pacific Islands Fish and WildlifeService
Past & Present:
Since 1973, there has been extensive research on the ‘alalā. They were once abundant in the lower forests of the western and southern sides of the island of Hawaii. When coffee and fruit farmers began shooting them in the 1890s, their population was already declining. By 1978, only 50 to 150 crows were believed to exist. Disease, predation by alien mammals, and loss of suitable habitat due to grazing and logging are also factors in the decline of the Hawaiian crow. The last two ‘alalā vanished from their territory in South Kona in 2002.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working in cooperation with the State of Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), the Zoological Society of San Diego, U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division, and private landowners to save and restore the ‘alalā. The Zoological Society of San Diego operates captive propagation facilities at the Maui Bird Conservation Center on Maui and at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center on the Big Island at Volcano. From 1993-1997, 27 juvenile ‘alalā were released into the wild. However, due to a variety of factors including predation by the ‘io and disease, 21 died or disappeared, and the remaining six were taken back into captivity. In 1997, the Service acquired 5,300 acres of land in the South Kona District to establish the Kona Forest Unit of the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge unit contains a significant amount of ‘alalā habitat. Efforts are ongoing to improve habitat conditions on the refuge and to release captive-reared ‘alalā again to the wild.The ‘alalā was listed as an endangered species in 1967 under the Federal Endangered Species Act and the revised recovery plan was published in 2009 with the goal to ultimately remove the crow from the list of Endangered and Threatened Species.
For ‘alalā voice recordings, click here.