More than 140 residents of the ‘Ewa District and beyond, gathered in the early overcast morning of February 6th, 2016 at the Kauhale Preserve in Hoakalei to engage in stewardship of the wetland nesting habitat of several endangered Hawaiian water fowl. Participants in the program ranged in age from 5 to 75, and were gathered together from regional schools and communities. The goal of the day was to prepare the kula ālialia (salt flats) which form the nesting ground for unique Hawaiian birds such as the kukuluāe‘o (Hawaiian Stilt), ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot), and the hunakai (Sanderlings). The native wetlands have greatly reduced in area as the environment has changed, and introduced plants have “hardened” the landscape. The muddy flats are critical habitat for the kukuluāe‘o who forage for small pāpa‘i (crabs), ‘ōpae (shrimp), insects and worms.
Before work started, Ku‘uwainani Eaton (Hoakalei Cultural Foundation Board President), shared some background on the foundations’ mission, and offered a Pule ho‘omaika‘i. Then wildlife specialist, Charlie Morgan, who has been working in the area for more than two decades explained that the kukuluāe‘o will begin nesting within the next few weeks. The nests are made in the mud where the eggs are laid. Once the eggs hatch the chicks are on their own, and feed themselves from the nest. This worked well for millennia, but the introduction of European rats, cats, and other predators significantly impacted the population. Then a marshland plant called batis or pickle weed was introduced, and began to cover all the salt flats. The hatchlings cannot reach their feeding area and get entangled in the batis. As a result, the population of kukuluāe‘o has reached critically low levels. Kepā Maly, Executive Director of the Hoakalei Cultural Foundation also shared some background on the bio-cultural landscape, and preservation of heritage sites in the Kauhale Preserve.
To view photo album follow this link http://www.hoakaleifoundation.org/albums/kauhale-preserve-wetland-stewar...
Following the brief presentations, the work was begun by the volunteers who opened up the main salt flats which serve as a safe habitat for the next generation of kukuluāe‘o. Mahalo nui to all who helped.
Following the work, members of the Lions Club fed all the volunteers lunch and shave ice. The group then took a tour, led by Kepā, along the heritage trail in the Kauhale Preserve where they viewed ancient house sites and workshop areas and learned of early life in the ahupua‘a of Honouliuli.
The Kauhale Wetlands Stewardship project is an annual event sponsored by the Hoakalei Cultural Foundation and community partners.
Mahalo a nui me ke aloha!