Rare Birds and Their Eggs Stolen from College Coops
We have talked about egg collecting previously on this blog. It is a hobby which is now illegal but unfortunately some people have no regard for the law or the effect that their activities have on wildlife populations. Indeed, it appears than some people will stop at nothing to get what they want. Recently a college in Kent was raided. Three rare birds and several of their eggs were stolen.
The animals were being kept at Hadlow College in Tonbridge. The police have been notified and are now appealing for help from the public to enable them to identify the perpetrators of the unfortunate break-in.
It is thought that a wire coop was cut open in order to remove the birds and their eggs. The thieves are reported to have stolen a female Laysan Teal duck together with 12 eggs, a female Nene goose and five eggs and finally a female Maned goose and 12 eggs.
Laysan Teal Duck
Endemic to the Hawaiian islands, the Laysan duck once lived throughout the US state but by 1860 only inhabited Laysan island. This species was adapted to an environment with no ground predators. But human settlers brought mongooses, pigs and rats to Hawaii and the duck population was severely impacted. The ducks were lost to all but Laysan island and then the introduction of rabbits made the situation even worse and by 1912 there were only 12 individuals remaining.
Rabbits were eradicated from the island in 1923 and the Laysan duck population began to grow, reaching 500 by the 1950s. Clearly the species was still extremely vulnerable and so 42 birds were relocated to Midway Atoll National Wildlife refuge in 2002. These birds did well and so another group was established on Kure Atoll. But the Laysan duck remains an extremely rare bird.
The nene (Branta sandvicensis) is also endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. The official bird of the state of Hawaii, the nene is exclusively found in the wild on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauaʻi, Molokai, and Hawaii. It is believed that the bird evolved from the Canada goose. Once common, with some 25,000 individuals present in the late 18th century, the nene is now the world’s rarest goose. Hunting and the introduction of predators saw the population of nene geese reduced to just 30 birds by 1952.
Fortunately, the species bred well in captivity and so it was possible to support the wild population with the introduction of captive-bred birds. By 2004 there were as many as 800 nene geese in the wild together with 1,000 individuals in zoos and wildfowl collections. Today there are more than 2,500 nene geese living on the Hawaiian islands. But the bird is still severely threatened and there are concerns regarding inbreeding.
The maned goose also known as the Australian wood duck is not threatened and is widespread in its range. Native to Australia, this species has benefited from agricultural practices as these have included the creation of dams and pools. It is classified as a game bird, and killed by licensed hunters.
We will let you know if there are any developments regarding the break-in at the college. Whilst the maned goose was not a rare specimen, the Nene goose and Laysan duck clearly were. Whoever was behind the thefts, they must have known what they were looking for and that these birds were in residence at the college. You cannot help but suspect an inside job!