Human lives were not the only ones threatened by the Maui wildfires. Numerous animals, many of which are critically endangered, were put at great risk from the disaster. On August 8, the fire threatened to spread to the Maui Bird Conservation Center in Makawao, which houses some of the rarest species on the planet. Before the flames got too close, however, a zookeeper stepped up and demonstrated inspiring bravery.
A security camera from Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources captured the entire event. Wildlife care supervisor Jennifer Pribble and her neighbor arrived at the site when smoke and fire was already visible in the distance. The pair immediately grabbed fire exteinguishers to put out the fire, then pulled out a hose to further douse the flames. “In that moment, our instincts kicked in and we knew what we had to do,” Pribble says. “The goal was to keep the fire from spreading toward the aviaries.”
The grass surrounding the animals was in an extremely dry condition, making the aviaries particularly vulnerable. Pribble knew that she had to stop the fire before it got too close. “We just went out and kept it under control the best that we could, just so it didn't cross back over the road, until the state firefighters could arrive,” she adds. Among the species kept at the Maui Bird Conservation Center are the last remaining Hawaiian crows, also called ‘alalā, which have been extinct in the wild since 2002. There are also Hawaiian honeycreepers, also known as ‘akikiki, of which there are about five remaining.
Fortunately, thanks to Pribble's quick actions, the fire was successfully stopped before it reached the aviary. Soon after she used the hose, the fire department assisted in holding off the fire. Now, the aim is to move the birds to a safe location.
More efforts are underway in aiding injured and displaced animals from the disaster. The Maui Humane Society is helping lead this situation by taking in as many found cats, dogs, and other animals as they can. However, they were already at capacity before the wildfires, so their resources are strained. In addition to seeking out volunteers to foster found pets, they are also asking for donations so they can continue to help reunite lost and found pets with their families.