Nēnē Gosling Found Dead At Liliʻuokalani Park​

By Jordan Lerma

Published: April 22, 2024 
Last Updated: May 07, 2024


Given the media attention surrounding the deceased gosling at Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens on Hawaiʻi Island, we believe it is important to provide additional context to the community. The nēnē parents involved, banded 595 and NTC, are some of the most sighted birds in our dataset and therefore we are uniquely positioned to share insights to help deepen the public understanding of what happened. You may also remember NTC as the mother of the gosling that was taken by Meiqin Chen and put into an onion bag in March of 2023.

NTC nesting at Wailoa State Park. Feb 2023
NTC, HEP and their gosling now banded NYN. March 2023

In late 2023, our team detected signs of seasonal nesting behavior from the pair of nēnē. This involves using our own data and community contributed sightings to identify abnormal movements. On December 28, we confirmed that NTC was nesting at Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens. 

NTC with two eggs on Jan 2024.

We continued to monitor the site during the incubation period and documented the hatching of one gosling on February 8th. Over the next month, we received regular updates from over 20 community members, who played a vital role in helping us track this nēnē family. Many reports raised concerns about inappropriate interactions, including people getting too close and children chasing the gosling. The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) and Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) worked with Hawaiʻi County Parks & Recreation to increase signage at Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens. The DOFAW was able to get the signs made but it took the Parks Department over two weeks to get them installed. By that time the gosling had already been found dead. Additional concerns involved the presence of off-leash dogs, cats, and mongooses, as well as two instances of the nēnē family consuming cat food. When we contacted DOCARE for an update on the cat feeding issue they deferred to the DOFAW.

New nēnē sign at Liliuokalani.
New nēnē signs were put up after the death of the gosling. Photo by Friends of Lili'uokalani Gardens.

On March 5, 2024, someone reported hearing the adult nēnē vocalizing and found the gosling deceased. DOFAW biologist Raymond McGuire was able to respond, collect the gosling and send it to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center for a necropsy (animal autopsy). Per USGS the final diagnosis for the cause of death was Toxoplasmosis. We provide an in-depth discussion of toxoplasmosis on our threats page. Cats are the only definitive hosts for this parasite in Hawaiʻi, which has been responsible for the deaths of a variety of native species, including ʻalalā (Hawaiian crows), spinner dolphins, false killer whales, and Hawaiian monk seals.

Nene 595 eating cat food at Liliuokalani Park. Jan 2024

While it is well-known that a feral cat colony exists at Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens, addressing this issue proves to be highly polarizing. In Hawaiʻi, attempts to manage feral cats often face strong animosity, making progress seem daunting. Our experiences with cat colony managers during the events at Queen’s Marketplace underscore these challenges. We hope to circumvent much of that backlash and focus on solutions that can benefit both conservation efforts and feral cats. We support legislation aimed at reducing pet abandonment, which includes requiring spaying/neutering for cats older than three months and mandatory microchipping. Additionally, we advocate to make it illegal to feed feral cats on Hawaiʻi County property to prevent the misconception that abandoned cats will be cared for.

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