A new Band-rumped Storm Petrel, or ʻakeʻake, burrow was discovered in August 2022, at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA) with the help of Slater, a conservation detector dog working alongside natural resources staff. This is only the sixth active burrow found since the ʻakeʻake breeding colony was first discovered at PTA in 2015.

ʻAkeʻake is a small, endangered sea bird that spends most of its life at sea only returning to land to breed. ʻAkeʻake burrows are cryptic, which makes locating breeding sites challenging. To find these burrows, staff rely on conservation detector dogs to detect an odor unique to ʻakeʻake. 

Akeʻake captured by surveillance camera inside the burrow discovered by the conservation detection dog Slater.

Slater began his job this summer at PTA after the retirement of the previous dog team. Slater began odor training in July and has already proven his abilities by locating an active burrow on his first outing. During his second visit, Slater identified two additional sites that may be burrows. Natural Resources staff will deploy surveillance cameras to monitor these new sites and hopefully will detect additional ʻakeʻake activity.

“Working with the conservation detector dogs and their handlers has been rewarding and we couldn’t find the burrows without their help” said Rogelio Doratt, a cooperator with the Natural Resources staff.

Slater, a conservation detector dog, surveying for ʻakeʻake burrows at Pōhakuloa Training Area.

Monitoring ʻakeʻake burrows provides valuable information to develop better management strategies to protect vulnerable breeding birds from introduced predators such as cats, mongoose, rodents, and barn owls. By managing these threats to ʻakeʻake, PTA is helping to ensure a more secure future for this endangered sea bird.  

“Environmental stewardship is an extremely important part of the PTA mission,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin, U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area Garrison Commander. “Our environmental division is dedicated and works tirelessly to support this mission, protecting endangered and threatened species, as well as cultural sites.  I am immensely proud of them.”