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Scientist led the fight against invasive species in Hawaii

Lloyd Loope, who became Haleakala National Park’s first research scientist in 1980 and went on to become one of the state’s leading advisers in the war against invasive species, has died at the age of 74.

Loope died July 4 following a battle with Lewy body dementia, a disease with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Born in Virginia, Loope earned his doctorate at Duke University before starting his conservation biology career at Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park in 1965.

In 1973 the U.S. government lent his services to Spain to help set up a national park service. From 1974 to 1976 he worked in Paris for the United Nation’s Man and the Biosphere Programme before returning to the states to work at Everglades National Park in Florida.

When Loope took the job at Haleakala, one of his first assignments was to figure out how to protect the park’s rare ecosystems from a growing onslaught of feral animals. With the help of park managers, Loope was able to do just that, fencing off and eradicating goats from the summit, pigs from the Kipahulu forest and rabbits from Hosmer Grove.

Over the next few decades, Loope would help to lead efforts against all kinds of biological invasions in Hawaii, including miconia and fire ants. His support helped to establish a network of invasive-species committees across the islands. On Maui he was among those who worked to delay the expansion of the Kahului Airport runway until effective quarantine inspections were in place.

Loope, who transferred to the U.S. Geological Serv­ice, would go on to produce a voluminous number of scientific papers, many of them examining the impact of invasives on native species in Haleakala National Park and other natural areas across the state.

Sam Ohu Gon III, senior scientist and cultural adviser for the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, said he met Loope in the 1980s while studying critters in East Maui.

“I really came to respect his quiet intellect, his intense devotion to conservation,” Gon said.

Loope, he said, was one of the first to call for action to deal with biological invasions — long before many people realized what kind of threat they really were.

In 2000, when Loope was given the Distinguished Serv­ice Award from the Secretariat of Conservation Biology, Environment Hawaii began its story about the honor this way: “What has Lloyd Loope done for Hawaii? Actually, the answer may be shorter if one asks what Lloyd Loope has not done.”

The scientist remained active even after his retirement. His last paper, completed in December just before his illness worsened, was a scientific guide for the state’s 2017-2019 Rapid Ohia Death Strategic Response Plan.

Services will be held Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. at the Maui Invasive Species Committee offices on Piiholo Road in Makawao. The family asks that donations go to the committee.

Loope is survived by wife Keri Duke, daughter Brook Loope Maturo, sons Bennett Loope and Marshall Loope, and four grandchildren.

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