By Mark Jerome Walters
Will the ’Alala ever go back to the wild? A chicken sacredto Hawaiians and a member of the raven relatives, the’Alala this present day survives simply in captivity. How thespecies as soon as flourished, the way it has been pushed tonear-extinction, and the way humans struggled to avoid wasting it,is the gripping tale of looking the Sacred Raven.For years, writer Mark Jerome Walters has trackedthe sacred bird’s function in Hawaiian tradition and theindomitable ’Alala’s unhappy decline. hiking throughHawaii’s rain forests excessive on Mauna Loa, conversing with biologists,landowners, and executive officers, he has woven an epic story ofmissed possibilities and the easiest intentions long gone awry.A species thatonce numbered within the hundreds of thousands is now constrained to approximately 50 captive birds.Seeking the Sacred Raven is as a lot approximately humans and tradition because it isabout failed rules. From the traditional Polynesians who first settled theisland, to Captain cook dinner within the 18th century, to would-be saviors of the’Alala within the Nineties, people with conflicting passions and prioritieshave formed Hawaii and the destiny of this dwindling cloud-forest species.Walters captures brilliantly the internecine politics between privatelandowners, scientists, environmental teams, contributors and governmentagencies fighting over the bird’s habitat and defense. It’s onlyone species, just one poultry, yet looking the Sacred Raven illustratesvividly the various dimensions of species loss, for the human to boot asnon-human international
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Additional info for Seeking the Sacred Raven: Politics and Extinction on a Hawaiian Island
Memories arose of Noe and the others ﬂitting among the old ‘o¯hi‘a trees in the deep forests of Mauna Loa, where light cartwheeled through the leaves with every breeze through the canopy. It didn’t take me long to reach my limit for staring at the dead. But that didn’t stop me, after thanking Agro and the librarians, from catching a cab across town to visit Peale’s grave at Laurel Hill Cemetery. “Once you get past the death end of it, this is a very interesting job,” Joe Direso, the cemetery’s general manager, volunteered as we drove along a winding road to the plot.
During the breeding season, nesting birds are monitored only from a blind. They don’t seem to mind our presence. ” “Sometimes,” she says as a droplet of water falls from a tree and lands in her hair. Then she says, “I do worry about them, all the time,” as if relieved to share the burden. qxd 20 4/14/06 6:47 PM Page 20 beginning in deep darkness Unger and I drive in silence down the mountain. Once back at the warehouse, I bid Unger farewell and head down the steep drive in my car and back out onto the Ma¯malahoa Highway.
Such were the faint traces of the ‘alala¯ left by the oral culture among which the species lived — knowledge tenuously impermanent to begin with, and upon which numerous layers of belief had been subsequently deposited. And in failing to discover this aspect of the Hawaiian past, would I be left with an empty outline of the bird? What I had hoped would be a window into their perception of the ‘alala¯ seemed to be a wall. If anything of the traditional Hawaiian view remained today, one might reason, it would be among the few Hawaiian elders and their protégés who have consciously nourished and sheltered knowledge of the ancient ways.