Conservation Medicine Spotlight: Avian Translocations with Pacific Rim Conservation

by Adrien Pesque, DVM

Pacific Rim Conservation, a nonprofit organization, has the mission of maintaining and restoring native bird diversity, populations, and ecosystems in Hawaii and the Pacific Region. In an effort to combat the threats to seabird populations including climate change and non-native predators (feral cats, pigs, rats, etc), chicks are translocated to predator proof fenced refuges on the main Hawaiian islands where they will fledge and return to breed. On Oahu, black-footed albatross, Bonin petrel, and Tristram’s storm-petrel chicks were translocated from Midway and Tern Island to James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. On Kauai, endangered Hawaiian petrels and Newell’s shearwater face similar threats of habitat degradation and non-native predators, but also collisions with power lines and structures exacerbated by light attraction. Individuals of these two species were translocated from the Kauai mountaintops to a predator proof fenced area within the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. These new breeding colonies will provide a safe haven for new generations to come. 

Dr. Adrien Pesqué, the staff wildlife veterinarian, joined the team this year and created a mobile veterinary clinic to oversee the health of the chicks. Clinical cases included avian pox lesions, osteomyelitis of the beak, a non-healing corneal ulcer, and aspiration pneumonia secondary to gastric foreign bodies. Plastics and fishing material in the GI tract were present in our chicks and continue to cause life threatening problems for ocean wildlife. 

Dr. Suzanne Pluskat, the staff wildlife veterinarian stationed on Midway Atoll, worked with partners to ensure the safety of the endangered Laysan duck for the anticipated rodent eradication on the island. Laysan duck cases involved pododermatitis, complicated corneal ulcers, femoral fracture repair and physical therapy. During the “construction season” (July-September when there are no albatross), many white tern chicks and the first ever black noddy chick were salvaged and fledged successfully.  

Pacific Rim Conservation partners with multiple government and non-profit groups to make this work possible. To learn more about these translocations and other research projects, please visit www.pacificrimconservation.org

Meet A Board Member

Leilani Sim-Godbehere, DVM
Kauai County Representative

Dr. Leilani Sim-Godbehere is currently our longest-serving member on the HVMA Executive Board. She was first involved as an Oahu Delegate, then as President-Elect, followed by President, and currently as the Kauai Delegate.

Dr. Sim-Godbehere received her DVM degree from Kansas State University in 1983. She has been in small animal private practice since graduation – first in Visalia, CA and then on Oahu for 18 years. She also held a four-year stint as a Veterinary Medical Officer for the Department of Agriculture at the Animal Quarantine Station from 1986 to 1990.

She is currently working as a relief doctor on a regular basis at the Kapaa Animal Clinic on Kauai and serves as the main caregiver for her elderly mom. She has always enjoyed the camaraderie and the privilege of belonging to such a lofty yet humble profession. Being involved in organized veterinary medicine has allowed her to give a little back to her colleagues and profession.

Dr. Sim-Godbehere’s other passions include her family, her dogs, horse, tortoises, rabbit, cats, and garden. She loves walking, swimming, horseback riding, and skiing. She is thankful to God for all the blessings he has given her.

What to do when marine wildlife need help?

Submitted by Michelle Barbieri, DVM


There are lots of ways that you can help Hawaii’s marine wildlife, both as an individual and if your clinic gets calls or inquiries. It may be completely normal for an animal (such as a green sea turtle or Hawaiian monk seal) to rest on the beach, but those sightings are informative even if the animal is safe and healthy. You can encourage clients to report sightings or concerns by calling the state-wide Marine Animal Stranding and Reporting Hotline at (888) 256-9840. This menu-based hotline will divert calls to the island- and wildlife-specific point of contact, and if the call comes in after hours, it will be checked first thing the next day, so always leave contact information for follow up questions. This is the best go-to contact number to keep at the front desk of your clinic or stored in your phone.

Many species (especially sea turtles and marine mammals) are protected by law. That means that even if you are a licensed, practicing, and well-intentioned veterinarian, conducting medical procedures on them requires specialized permits and expertise, so it should always be done by appropriately trained and permitted stranding response personnel. If your clinic gets a call about a marine animal in need, it is best to refer them directly to the Stranding Hotline for assistance. Please do not attempt to treat an animal yourself.

It is also important to give wildlife a safe distance, avoid approaching, touching, or otherwise disturbing them because rest is important to their biology, and they can be a danger to your safety. You can also help by advising clients to keep pet cats indoors, which will reduce the risk of disease spread, namely toxoplasmosis.

Between Jan-July 2020, 18 monk seal pups were born in the main Hawaiian Islands: 5 on Oʻahu, 11 on Molokaʻi, and 1 each on Kaua‘i and Hawaiʻi Island. Encountering female seals that are nursing their pups is a situation in which it is important to be especially cautious, as these seals in particular can be aggressive.

The Fishing Around Seals and Turtles program provides guidelines on how to fish safely around these animals and what to do if a fisherman accidentally hooks one while fishing. Again, if someone contacts you about an entangled or hooked animal please refer them to the stranding hotline.

If you suspect illegal or suspicious activity, it can be reported to: (a) the Hawaii DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources (DOCARE) hotline at (808) 643-DLNR, or preferably on the DLNRTip App for your mobile device; or (b) NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Hotline (800) 853-1964. The Stranding Hotline links to DOCARE as well.

For additional information contact: RespectWildlife@noaa.gov
For immediate assistance or to report marine wildlife emergencies call: 1-888-256-9840
If you are interested in having electronic materials with this information that you can print and post at your clinic, please contact Dr. Michelle Barbieri.

New Board Members Wanted!

2020 is an election year and we are looking for anyone interested in bringing new ideas and energy to our organization. The positions open for nominations include Pres-Elect, VP, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive VP, Oahu Reps and Kauai Rep. Please don’t be shy and contact the nominating committee for more info!

Legislative Update July 2018

SB 2461

July 18, 2018
Enacted into law without Governor’s signature

This new law:

1.     Creates the offense of misrepresenting a service animal if a person knowingly misrepresents as a service animal any animal that does not meet the requirements of a service animal;

2.     Specifies that this offense is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than 6 months in jail and a fine of no less than $250 but no more than $2,000 for the second offense and each offense thereafter;

3.     Changes the term service dog to service animal; and

4.     Amends the definition of a service animal to conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

HB 2081

July 18, 2018
Signed into law

This new law:

 1.     Appropriates funds to the Department of Land and Natural Resources in order to provide assistance and additional funding to the National Wildlife Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and

2.     Specifies that this appropriation allows the Department of Agriculture to conduct pilot field studies to evaluate control tools and develop a management plan for reducing the rose-ringed parakeet population on Kauai.