Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Fence to be installed to protect native species at Kaena Point

By Gary T. Kubota


Waianae High School environmental studies teacher Mike Kurose said many of his students use Kaena Point not only as a living wildlife laboratory, but also as a cultural area that affirms their identity and pride as native Hawaiians.

But the northwestern tip of Oahu, home to one of the largest seabird colonies in the main Hawaiian Islands, has been hard-hit by dogs, cats and rats that have attacked native ground-nesting seabirds.

"When we've seen birds killed by cats or dogs, we are angered and dismayed," Kurose said. "We want this place to be protected so that everyone can learn from and be inspired by its mana and beauty."

To protect native wildlife, the state is planning to install predator-proof fencing around the tip of the peninsula at the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve.

Kaena Point will remain open to hikers, fishermen and others during and after the five-week fence installation.

The fencing, used successfully in New Zealand, is designed to keep out animals as small as mice that can eat native plants and seeds, state officials said.

The green steel fence, 2,000 feet long and 6 1/2 feet tall, is expected to enclose 59 acres. The fence is topped with a "rolled hood," a type of shield designed to keep animals from jumping over.

It will still allow human access through three unlocked double-door gates, officials said.

After the fencing is in place, the state will set traps to capture alien animals in the reserve.

State Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Laura Thielen said the project was a result of a partnership with government and private groups.

Partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Hawaii chapter of the Wildlife Society and the Xcluder Pest Proof Fencing Co. of New Zealand.

"We are fortunate to be able to bring new, proven technology to conservation on public lands," Thielen said. "There is no better place than Kaena Point to do it."

Some native species living at Kaena include the Laysan albatross, wedge-tailed shearwaters and 11 endangered plant species.

Sierra Club Hawaii chapter Director Robert Harris said the Kaena area has plants, birds and animals not found anywhere else in the world.

"It's one of the few coastal protected areas that we have left on Oahu," Harris said.

State officials designated the region as the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve in 1983.

Officials barred off-road vehicles from entering the reserve in 1989.

Large-scale killings of native seabirds have been recorded in the recent past, including the deaths of 150 fledglings, 21 of them shearwater chicks, by dogs and cats in 2006; and 50 seabirds in 2007, the state said.

Officials said rats are known to eat nestlings.

Wildlife Society President Bill Standley said the partnership for the project began four years ago and that he's happy it is starting.

"It's outstanding. ... It's been a long time in coming," he said. "There's so many threats to the native species here."

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