US Department of Defense Helping to Protect Endangered Seabirds on Kauaʻi
The US Department of Defense is funding construction of two fences, one predator proof and the other ungulate proof, to protect endangered sea birds in the Nā Pali-Kona Forest Reserve and adjacent Kōke’e State Park on Kauaʻi.
The Honopu Restoration Project also will protect numerous endangered plants and important habitat for the endangered seabirds (‘a’o, ‘ua’u and ‘ake’ake) in the reserve’s mesic forest. The forest is one of the few places on Kaua‘i where this specific habitat occurs.
The Department of Defense so far has provided $1.3 million through its Readiness Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program. This is the first time the program is providing funding for a non-mitigation project.
The Hawaiʻi State Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) is managing the project and also providing $300,000 to $500,000 through general funds, staff time and technical support.
“This represents the alignment of goals across a long list of agencies, which is the best way to accomplish landscape level conservation,” said Sheri S. Mann, the Kaua‘i Branch Manager of DOFAW. “This project will also be the first in Hawai‘i that has a predator proof fence inside of an ungulate proof fence. We hope to prove that while predator proof fences are best for seabird protection, the addition of ungulate proof fences with ongoing predator control, also accomplishes seabird protection.”
While walking some of the completed 4½ foot-high ungulate fencing on Kalepa Ridge, DOFAW botanist Adam Williams said that on nearby Honopu Ridge an additional 4 feet of mesh will be added to keep deer out. Ungulate fencing is meant to keep deer, pigs and goats out.
“The 8-foot-high fencing will keep deer out of the entire upper watershed,” Williams said.
Three acres of the 240 acres is also getting predator-proof fencing.
“It is a totally different design, is very small mesh, with a shiny hood to keep cats, rats and mice away from the seabirds,” Williams said.
This will create a safe haven for birds to nest and raise their young until they fledge or leave their nests. Once completed, conservationists will place artificial nests in the enclosure and play recordings of birds to attract them.
Helen Raine of the Archipelago Research and Conservation will be setting up the social attraction part of the project.
“This will create a sanctuary for them to breed,” Raine said. “The artificial burrows provide ready-made homes so they don’t have to dig them with their beaks and feet, which can take years. We’re looking forward to seeing this area become a thriving colony for ‘a’o, ‘ua’u and ‘ake’ake once again.”
In addition to birds, conservation fencing in general helps protect rare and endangered plants.
“The same predators that are threats to seabirds are also threats to plants,” said Yuki Reiss, a DOFAW/Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit at UH Water Resource Analyst. “They tear up the native habitat, eat seeds and cause a lot of erosion. Stopping them improves the ability of native plants to propagate and spread naturally.”
Participants in the Honopu Restoration Project also include the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Hallux Ecosystem Restoration LLC, Archipelago Research and Conservation and Pacific Rim Conservation.