Protecting Hawaii's endangered species
Hawaii, known as the endangered species capital of the world, is home to 10 animals and 39 plants under review for U.S. Endangered Species protections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposal in late September.
The 49 species occur in 11 different habitat types, with 48 of them occurring nowhere else on Earth except Hawaii. These plants and animals are at risk of extinction due to invasive, non-native species, recreational activities, small population size and threats from erosion landslides and fire.
Listing these species, if approved, will boost ongoing conservation efforts to address these threats, prevent extinction and improve the ecology health of the islands.
Among the animals listed are the ‘ake‘ake, or band-rumped storm-petrel, which is a medium sized bird (primarily blackish-brown with a narrow white ban across the rump — found on the isles of Lehua, Kauai, Maui and Hawai‘i island, as well as Japan, the Galapagos islands and subtropical areas of the Atlantic. It is the smallest and rarest seabird that breeds in Hawaii.
"It's a very enigmatic seabird," said Andre Raine, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project Coordinator. "No one's actually found an active nest for the species in Hawaii but we do know that they nest here...We've recorded their calls."
The storm-petrels are vulnerable to predators, including Polynesian rats, barn owls and feral cats. They have shallow wing beats, but glide long over the surface of the ocean. They nest in burrows in a variety of high-elevation, inland habitats. Only a single egg is laid per season, between May and June; nestlings fledge in October.
Only the Hawaii population is being proposed for the list, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and not the band-rumped storm-petrels that occur in Japan, the Galapagos and subtropical areas of the Atlantic.
The list also includes seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees in response to petitions from the Xerces Society, the Orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly and Anchialine pool shrimp found on Hawaii island and Maui.
A total of 39 native plants, including the Maui kolea (Myrsine fosbergii), nanu (Gardenia remyi), Maui reedgrass (Calamagrostis expansa). Baker's loulu palm (Pritchardia bakeri) and ihi (Portulaca villosa). The Baker's loulu, named after Lyon Arboretum founder Ray Baker, is found in wet, windswept and grassy areas, and sometimes on steep slopes from about 1,500 to 2,100 feet at the extreme northern and southern ends of the Koolaus on Oahu. It has yellow flowers.
Seana Walsh, a conservation biologist at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, said: "Hawaii is so special for many reasons, one of them being our rich, highly endemic flora and fauna. Looking at this list of 39 plant taxa proposed for Federal listing, nearly a quarter of them are unique to Kauai, showcasing how narrowly endemic some of these taxa are. Every species depends upon others for its continued existence. If a species goes extinct, there is a cascading effect on the whole ecosystem, effects of which we may not immediately be aware."
Of the 39 plants proposed, 18 currently have 50 or fewer individual plants remaining in the wild. Walsh added that although these plant taxa are only now being proposed for listing, many dedicated people from a handful of agencies across Hawaii have been working diligently together for years to protect them from extinction.
"The Endangered Species Act is one way these taxa gain recognition regarding their status and support for protection," she said.
Requests for a public hearing must be submitted in writing to Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96850 by Nov. 16.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepts comments and information through Dec. 1 at www.regulations.gov (in the search box, enter the docket number, FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125). Written comments and information can also be submitted by U.S. snail mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.