By John R. Platt
It takes a lot of effort and more than a little bit of luck for researchers like André Raine to get to the remote mountaintops of Kauai, where they're working to save endangered Hawaiian seabirds from extinction.
Raine holding a Hawaiian petrel chick. Courtesy Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project<p>So, unfortunately, do several species of invasive predators — including feral cats, black rats and feral pigs — that have put these ground-nesting birds, and so many other native Hawaiian species, on the fast track toward extinction.</p><p>"People are always really surprised by this," Raine said, "but it doesn't matter how remote the area, or how apparently inhospitable it is to predators like cats. You're going to find cats and rats and pigs in these areas. There wasn't a single site that we work in that doesn't have all these predators, busy eating the birds."</p>
An endangered chick in the mouth of a feral cat. Courtesy Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project<p>Like many island endemics, Hawaii's bird species grew up without mammalian predators, so they're ill-adapted to the teeth and claws that arrived with human society. The cats descended from housecats, while pigs escape from agricultural sites and rats descended from stowaways on ships.</p><p>That's why the Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project has spent the past nine years constructing fences and establishing other predator controls — work that is proving essential in giving these native birds a chance.</p><p>The first step in controlling predators is quantifying the threat.</p><p>According to a paper Raine and his colleagues published earlier this year in <a href="https://wildlife.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jwmg.21824" target="_blank">The Journal of Wildlife Management</a>, introduced predators killed at least 309 endangered seabirds at six monitored breeding colonies between 2011 and 2017. That's quite a blow for each of these endangered species.</p><p>"Newell's shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels have suffered catastrophic declines over the last few decades," Raine said. "Any chick that's lost in the population is one that we can't afford to lose."</p>
Hawaiian petrel. © Ken Chamberlain, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC). Via iNaturalist.<p>The researchers took on the sad task of collecting the dead and examining the wound patterns to determine which type of predator made the kill.</p><p>Rats, it turned out, killed the most — more than 50% of mortalities — usually from entering the birds' rocky burrows and eating eggs and chicks. That dramatically slows recovery efforts, but the research shows that adult birds who've lost their chicks returned to the same burrows the following year to try again.</p>
Fence Me In<p>Over the past decade, the Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project and its many organizational partners have concentrated on establishing predator controls at six of their seven regularly monitored seabird breeding sites.</p><p>Again, this isn't easy to accomplish in these remote, rarely visited locations. Materials must be flown in, ungulate-proof fences built, other traps set, and pig-hunting expeditions organized. All of it must be accomplished and maintained in precarious territory full of wet vegetation, narrow ridgelines and steep canyon walls.</p><p>To make things even more difficult, the human visitors must leave the habitat as undisturbed as possible.</p><p>"If you start making trails in these areas, then you're basically just opening them up to the hordes of predators that are out there," Raine says.</p><p>But the hard work pays off.</p><p>According to the paper, fences and other controls not only keep the invasive predators out, they give the birds the opportunity to thrive.</p><p>The research team used seven years data from the six sites, from before and after predator controls were established, and projected striking results for the future of the two seabird species.</p><p>The first model looked at what would happen to each site without predator controls. It was a disaster — mostly due to cats. "We ran that for 50 years, and we found that all of the colonies dwindle toward extinction."</p><p>The paper, in what Raine acknowledges as gallows humor, calls this the <em>CATastrophe</em> model.</p><p>The second modeling approach incorporated data from successful breeding that took place after more extensive predator controls (fences and traps) were put in place. "We found that the populations increased over those 50 years," Raine said. Under the model, which was based on 2017 population growth rates at sites with predator controls, most sites would see a 50-60% increase over the 50-year projection, while one site more than doubled.</p><p>"It really does show that if you remove the predators, the birds will begin to recover."</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dana Drugmand
Hawaii has officially joined the fight to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the climate crisis. On Monday the City of Honolulu filed a lawsuit against 10 oil and gas companies, seeking monetary damages to help pay for costs associated with climate impacts like sea level rise and flooding.
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- Across the U.S., Climate Change Lawsuits Are Gaining Steam ... ›
- Seattle County Files 11th US Climate Liability Lawsuit Against Big Oil ›
- DC and Minnesota Sue Fossil Fuel Giants for Misleading Public on Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
- Charleston, SC Becomes First City in U.S. South to Sue Big Oil for Climate Costs - EcoWatch ›
By Brett Walton
Defying a vote of the County Council, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said on Oct.18 that he will not settle a Clean Water Act lawsuit that holds national implications for water pollution permitting.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
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- Fungal Disease Is Threatening Native Hawaiian Trees - EcoWatch ›
By Kaitlin Grable
I was born on the island of O'ahu, 98 years after the U.S. supported an illegal coup in my hometown of Honolulu to overthrow Queen Liliuokalani and steal Hawaiian land. I was born in a Hawai'i that is radically and tragically different from the Hawai'i of my ancestors.
But in Hawai’i the continued legacies of colonialism and imperialism are destroying our ‘aina.<p>Countless Hawaiian sacred sites have been bulldozed, dismantled, developed and even used for military target practice.</p><p>Many Kanaka (Indigenous Hawaiians) are passionately fighting to raise awareness about the injustices they face, such as racism and displacement, while seeking to gain back control of their land. And right now, the world is watching as Hawaiians, both Indigenous Kanaka and non-Indigenous Kama'aina, are taking a stand against scientific imperialism in the form of the Thirty Meter Telescope.</p><p>These protectors, the Ku Kia'i Mauna, have been steadfast in their presence, creating blockades with their own bodies to prevent road access for weeks now.</p>
But this is about so much more than the desecration of sacred lands. This is about dismantling the systems of colonialism and imperialism that have destroyed and exploited our precious natural resources, and continue to do so with no regard for people or planet.<p>Hulali Kau, a writer and advocate working in Native Hawaiian and environmental law, said it best: </p><blockquote>"To anyone that continues to try to frame TMT as a science versus culture argument, I would say that this struggle over the future of Mauna Kea is actually about how we manage resources and align our laws and values of Hawaii to connect a past where the state has subjected its Indigenous people to continued mismanagement of it lands with its uncertain future."</blockquote>
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
‘It’s About Respecting a Culture’: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Visits Mauna Kea Protests to Lend Support
Native Hawaiians may be fighting to protect Mauna Kea from a giant telescope, but now they have a different kind of star power on their side. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, one of the world's highest-grossing actors, visited the protesters Wednesday to lend support, Hawaii News Now reported.
By Jessica Corbett
A week after construction was scheduled to resume on a long-delayed $1.4 billion telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea — a dormant volcano on Hawaii's Big Island — thousands of Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain sacred continued to protest the planned observatory.
A decade-long fight over the proposed construction of a giant telescope on a mountain considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians came to a head Wednesday when 33 elders were arrested for blocking the road to the summit, HuffPost Reported.
In a case watched closely both by polluting industries and clean water advocates across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an appeal of a Clean Water Act case out of Hawaii concerning treated sewage flowing into the Pacific Ocean from injection wells.
A damaging storm pummeled the Hawaiian islands over the weekend, downing trees and power lines, raising 60-foot-waves, and potentially breaking records for wind speed, low temperatures and snowfall. And scientists say this is exactly the kind of extreme weather event made more likely by climate change.
"There's no place on the planet where (people) can expect to see conditions as they have been in the past," University of Hawaii at Mānoa Earth Sciences professor and Honolulu Climate Change Commission vice chair Chip Fletcher told USA Today of the weekend's storm.
House Bill 808, which outlaws the intentional killing, capture, abuse or entanglement of sharks and rays in state marine waters, passed its first committee meeting on Wednesday. The upper chamber version, Senate Bill 489, secured its first committee approval late last month and passed a second reading on Monday.
By Jason Bittel
On January 2, a snail named George shriveled up and died in his tank at the University of Hawaii. He was 14 years old, which for a land snail is pretty long in the tooth (or in George's case, radula). But in all of his years, George never sired any offspring. There were simply no mating partners to be found. In fact, George was the last known member of his species, Achatinella apexfulva. And the moment he slimed off this mortal coil, 2019 experienced its first documented extinction.
While George's death came as a bit of a surprise (it's tough to tell when a snail is ill), the extinction of his species has been a long time coming.