National Geographic : 1965 Nov
Saving the Nene, World's Rarest Goose at home on the tundra-like uplands of the lava flows. A pair or gaggle of such geese might have arrived on Hawaii and, through wing injury or similar accident, settled down to break the silver cord tying them to the age old migratory habit. Isolation and fifty thou sand generations would do the rest. The history of the nene since Western set tlement has been a sad one. They became sought as a table delicacy to relieve the tedi um of salt pork, fish, and the tuberous island vegetables. Nene are delicious, but their tame ness hardly qualifies them as game birds. Species Near Extinction by 1911 Thousands of the birds were slaughtered and salted down in barrels to provision whal ing ships. Legend holds that they also fed the forty-niners during California gold-rush days; the clipper-ship trade was so highly developed that laundry from California was brought to Hawaii to be washed. Along with the clean laundry, the ships took potatoes, fruit, pork, chickens, and nene back to the mainland. By 1902 naturalists were already warning against the 4 1 /2-month hunting season on nene, which allowed each hunter six birds a day. Not till 1911 was the season closed, but the damage had already been done. Nene flocks continued to dwindle. An old-timer of Hilo on Hawaii, Herbert C. Shipman (page 751), had in his youth seen skeins of flying geese in the rugged lava up lands. He wondered: Could they be brought back? In 1918 he accepted a pair of nene of fered him by a friend. Shipman had a coastal country place near Hilo, at Keaau. Why not keep the geese there? In spite of mongooses, which ate a few fledglings, Shipman's pair multiplied and flourished. Another bird or two came his way a few years later, and by 1927 he had a small flock. The state of the wild nene was now so deplorable that the Territorial Commission ers of Agriculture and Forestry asked Ship man to give a few pairs to the new Mokapu Game Farm on the island of Oahu. The game farm managed to rear 31 nene. Territorial legislators and their rancher friends vied for the privilege of obtaining for their home islands some of Hawaii's own geese. Pairs were shipped off to such islands as Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai-where the geese had never occurred in nature. No one ESTAR (OPPOSITE, UPPER), AND JERRY CHONG © N.G .S 749 ACHROMESBY DEREK BA'