Media Release by American Bird Conservancy
The Kaua`i Creeper or `Akikiki has been named one of America’s top ten threatened species impacted by global warming in a new report released December 1. The report, America’s Hottest Species, produced by the Endangered Species Coalition in conjunction with a coalition of groups including American Bird Conservancy, demonstrates ways that our changing climate is increasing the risk of extinction for eleven species around the United States that are on the brink of disappearing forever.
“Global warming is like a bulldozer shoving species, already on the brink of extinction, perilously closer to the edge of existence,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Polar bears, lynx, salmon, coral and many other endangered species are already feeling the heat. The species in this report are representative of all imperiled wildlife, plants, and fish that are now facing an additional, compounding threat to their survival, and why we need to take action today to protect them.”
“Hawai`i is the epicenter of extinction in the America’s,” said George Wallace, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President for Oceans and Islands. “There are a number of factors that have led to the disappearance of so many of Hawai`i’s native birds since it was colonized, including introduced pigs, goats, cats, rats, and mosquitoes. Global warming adds a huge new, incipient threat to the `Akikiki and the other remaining endemic birds of the archipelago.”
Local Species in Need
The `Akikiki is a type of honeycreeper, a group of birds that shows tremendous variation, even more so than Darwin’s famous finches of the Galapagos. At least 59 species originally occurred in Hawai`i, but, with human settlement came multiple introductions of exotic species that caused the extinction of all but 17. Avian malaria is a serious threat to the `Akikiki, one that could be exacerbated by global warming. An increase in temperature of slightly less than 4°F in the montane forests of Kaua’i would result in an 85% decrease in the ‘Akikiki’s safe haven area where malaria transmission is currently limited by cool temperatures.
In response to a petition from American Bird Conservancy and Hawaiian bird expert, Dr. Eric VanderWerf, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the `Akikiki under the Endangered Species Act, along with `Akeke`e, another imperiled honeycreeper found only on Kaua’i.