Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Kamehameha butterflies

February 27th, 2014
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The Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. It is also Hawaii's official state insect. Photo courtesy UH.

The Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. It is also Hawaii's official state insect. The University of Hawaii is asking for the public's help in mapping these butterflies in Hawaii. Photo courtesy UH.

The Pulelehua Project is now underway, with at least 10 new confirmed sightings of Kamehameha butterflies by citizen scientists from the islands of Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture reached out to the public last week, asking for photo submissions to help map out the distribution of the butterflies to help determine how and why its population has declined.

The Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. They used to be commonly found up at Tantalus on Oahu, but no longer are. They are orange and black, but don't get them confused with common lookalikes.

Check out the number of white or light orange patches on the black area on the upper surface of the forewings — the Kamehameha has only three main white patches in this area (other species have additional white spots). When at rest, with wings folded, the Kamehameha also has a longer, pale patch or multiple pale patches on the underside of the hindwing. It has no blue-centered eyespots.

Many submissions have been of the Gulf Fritillary, according to the Pulelehua Project, which is pretty common around Honolulu. The caterpillars are red with black spines, and they feed on lilikoi and related vines.

The non-native painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui and Vanessa virginiensis) are in the same genus as the Kamehameha butterfly and look very similar — check for "extra" white dots in the black area on the front wings.

To submit a sighting, the university requests that you include a photo, which can be uploaded on its website. If you think you've seen one but can't submit a photo, email pulelehua@ctahr.hawaii.edu with a description of the sighting, location ad date.

You can also spot the eggs, which are tiny and about the size of a pin head on the upper or lower surface of the leaves of caterpillar host plants, particularly the mamaki.

The eggs are just the size of a pin head. Photo by Will Haines. Courtesy UH.

The eggs are just the size of a pin head. Photo by Will Haines. Courtesy UH.

It's definitely an interesting approach — inviting "Hawaii citizen scientists" to get involved.

For updates, go to the Pulelehua Project's FB page (to see photos submitted by citizen scientists). The first confirmed sighting of a Kamehameha butterfly on Molokai came from Waialua Valley yesterday. Another was sighted in a backyard in Volcano on the Big Island, located at 4,000 feet elevation, where the butterflies appear to be doing well.

Kamehameha butterfly egg, closeup. The egg measures only 1 millimeter in diameter. Photo by Will Haines.

Kamehameha butterfly egg, closeup. The egg measures only 1 millimeter in diameter. Photo by Will Haines.

Saving Waikiki

February 12th, 2014
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Volunteers are welcome to help remove three types of invasive algae from the reef behind Waikiki aquarium during public beach cleanups scheduled from February through October.

The Waikiki Aquarium recently received a $43,951 Community Restoration Partnership grant to continue its Waikiki Coastal Restoration efforts and research. The alien algae — Acanthophora spicifera, Gracilaria salicornia and Avrainvillea amadelpha — choke the reefs and crowd out native limu. They're considered a marine menace and threat to the beauty of Waikiki.

Beach cleanups will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, as well as on Saturdays, March 29, May 3, June 28 and Oct. 25.

"This grant allows us to further engage the public in our conservation efforts, which is a very important goal for us in 2014," said Aquarium director Andrew Rossiter. "We encourage everyone who has an interest in the ocean to join us for a rewarding Saturday morning out on the reef."

Volunteers will first  be trained on how to differentiate between invasive and native algae plants followed by hands-on removal experience on the reef using snorkels, paddleboards and buckets. Dr. Celia Smith and her team from the University of Hawaii Botany Department will provide the training. Starbucks and Diamond Bakery are providing coffee and snacks for volunteers.

Waikiki Aquarium's volunteers have removed thousands of pounds of invasive algae from the reef behind the aquarium over the decade in an effort to protect the native marine plants.

Other organizations, including Malama Maunalua, have also worked hard to remove invasive algae from Maunalua Bay (which stretches from Diamond Head to Koko Head) in East Oahu, with hopeful signs that the bay is being restored. Malama Maunalua also offers volunteer opportunities. On the windward side, a Super Sucker, a mobile underwater pump-vacuum, is used to remove invasive algae from Kaneohe Bay.

To voluteer for the Waikiki Coastal Restoration program, call the aquarium's volunteer office at 440-9020 or visit www.waikikiaquarium.org.

World Wetlands Day

February 7th, 2014
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Ramsar World Wetlands Day takes place Saturday, Feb. 8 at Kailua Methodist Church. Learn about the cultural, historical and environmental significance of the Kawainui-Hamakua March. Photo courtesy Nathan Yuen.

Ramsar World Wetlands Day takes place Saturday, Feb. 8 at Kailua Methodist Church. Learn about the cultural, historical and environmental significance of the Kawainui-Hamakua March. Photo courtesy Nathan Yuen.

Ramsar World Wetlands Day is Saturday.

Learn all about the Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh Complex and how the wetlands are being restored for the endangered waterbirds of Hawaii at World Wetlands Day from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Kailua Methodist Church, 1110 Kailua Rd.

The family-friendly event offers:

>> Bus tours of Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh (advance reservations recommended at email@ahahui.net or 263-8008).

>> Walking tours of the lo‘i kalo at Ulupo Heiau

>> View images of Kawainui by nature photographer Nathan Yuen

>> Listen to Hawaiian perspectives on Wetlands, a lecture by Samual ‘Ohu Gon III, the Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i and Waimea Williams

>> Listen to guest speakers talk about managing water for wetlands, agricultural opportunities at wetlands, sea level change and wetlands and restoring wetlands for endangered waterbirds.

>> Listen to music by Hawai‘i Loa & Pila Nahenahe and performances by Halau Ha‘a Hula ‘o Kekau‘ilani Na Pua Hala ‘O Kailua under the direction of kumu hula Charlani Kalama.

>> Kama‘aina Kids will provide keiki activities and a climbing wall

>> Buy native Hawaiian plants, local food, artwork and T-shirts

Learn about the stewardship of our valuable wetlands. For more information, visit wwwd2014.blogspot.com or the Facebook page.

WorldWetlandsbyNateYuen

See photos of Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh by Nathan Yuen at World Wetlands Day 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Kailua Methodist Church. Photo courtesy Nathan Yuen.

 WorldWetlandsFlyer

 

Papahanaumokuakea: Marine debris now viewable

January 31st, 2014
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A Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun, as well as marine debris, can now be viewed on Google Maps. Photo by NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries.

A Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun can be viewed as part of Google Maps. Photo by NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries.

Alas, now we can see marine debris at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, up close, without setting foot on shore (which you need permission from the government to do).

Google Maps has now captured the first 360-degree panoramic images from five new locations within the marine monument, which are sometimes referred to as the Northwestern Hawaiian islands. The announcement was actually made earlier this month, at the start of the new year.

View Larger Map

You can virtually visit Tern Island and East Island at the French Frigate Shoals, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island and Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

It's the link to Laysan Island that gives you a peek of a Hawaiian monk seal (hello) plus the marine debris, pieces of broken down plastic that you can see scattered along the sand and vegetation. One image captures what looks like a plastic, laundry basket – now how did that get washed ashore of one of the isolated islands on Earth?

You also get a glimpse of birds, mostly on the Tern Island link, and a Hawaiian sea turtle at the Pearl and Hermes Atoll link.

Voice of the Sea

January 4th, 2014
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Learn all about the exciting scientific and cultural work going on in Hawaii and the Pacific on a new, reality-based show, "Voice of the Sea," which debuts Jan. 5 on KFVE.

World paddleboard champion and shark researcher Kanesa Duncan Seraphin hosts the show, which profiles local science and cultural celebrities while inspiring students to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The half-hour show was developed in collaboration with the University of Hawaii's Curriculum Research & Development Group, Hawaii Sea Grant Center for Marine Science Education, with funding from the NOAA Pacific Services Center.

The first episode will feature Kimokeo Kapahulehua, president of the Maui Fishpond Association, who will talk about restoration efforts there. Seraphin also interviews experts from the Tara expedition, and experts on aquaponics, oysters, algae and volcanoes.

"Voice of the Sea" will air 6 p.m. Sundays on KFVE (Channels 5 and 1005).

Saving the Palila

December 13th, 2013
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The population of the Palila, a Hawaiian honeycreeper, has declined 66 percent in the past decade. Fewer than 2,200 birds are currently left. Photo courtesy of DLNR/by Jackson Bauer.

The population of the Palila, a Hawaiian honeycreeper, is critically endangered. Its population has declined 66 percent in the past decade. Fewer than 2,200 birds are currently left. Photo courtesy of DLNR/By Jackson Bauer.

Hawaii actor Jason Scott Lee, is lending his voice to a new public service announcement aimed at helping to save the critically endangered Palila, which begins airing statewide this week. The Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resource's Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and American Bird Conservancy have initiated the new outreach campaign.

You can find the PSA at RestoreMaunaKea.org

The Palila (Loxioides bailleui) is found in a small patch of mamane forest on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawaii island.

It has a vibrant, yellow head, strong bill and delightful call — and is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it occurs only in Hawaii and nowhere else. The Palila, which belongs to the Hawaiian Honeycreeper family, is also critically endangered. More than 15 in this family are now extinct.

The population of Palila, which once lived across most of Hawaii island, has declined 66 percent in the last decade. Fewer than 2,200 birds are currently left due to the shrinking of their habitat and food source — healthy mamane forests — which are being damaged by non-native sheep, goats and cattle. Other threats include long-term drought, feral cats and mongoose that prey on the adult birds and nestlings.

"Not many people are familiar with what a Palila is and why they are worth saving," said Robert Stephens, coordinator for DOFAW's Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project, in a press release. "What makes the Palila special is that they are a classic example of the spectacular evolutionary process that occurred in the remoteness of the Hawaiian islands. They survived in the dry forests for thousands of years by adapting to a food source, mamane pods, that is toxic to other wildlife. Palila belong here and are one of the things that makes Hawaii one of the most amazing places on the planet."

The American Bird Conservancy has made the Palila one of its high-priority species for bird conservation work in Hawaii.

Native Hawaiians have loved the Palila, along with other native species, since ancient times. Queen Emma visited Mauna Kea in the early 1880s and composed a series of mele to commemorate the event, including one which describes the memorable song of the Palila.

Besides removing non-native grazing animals, the state is maintaining a fence around the Palila's critical habitat on Mauna Kea. Volunteers are also restoring Mauna Kea's mamane forest.

In January, a nine-by-12-foot mural featuring the Palila will be on display on a prominent building in downtown Hilo.


For the love of honu

December 12th, 2013
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Hiwahiwa, a female Hawaiian green sea turtle, has made the journey from Laniakea to the French Frigate shoals several times. Here, she basks at Laniakea Beach. Photo by Nina Wu.

Hiwahiwa, a female Hawaiian green sea turtle, has made the journey from Laniakea to the French Frigate shoals several times. Here, she basks at Laniakea Beach. Photo by Nina Wu.

I remember the first time visiting the Hawaiian green sea turtles at Laniakea beach on Oahu's North Shore more than a decade ago. It wasn't as crowded as it is now, with a constant stream of visitors. There were visitors, yes, but not the sheer volume that there is now.

It was magical to see these magnificent creatures basking so peacefully on the shores of the beach. I recall getting into the water as well, and seeing some of the honu feeding on limu on the rocks. I knew then to get out of the way, while still admiring them. It's no wonder that an estimated 600,000 visitors make the trek to the North Shore, park in the makeshift dirt lot across the street and dart across Kamehameha Highway to get a glimpse of the sea turtles, too.

The wonderful thing is that they do so out of curiosity and hopefully, love for the honu, too.

A small bus dropped a group of Japanese tourists off across from Laniakea Beach to get a glimpse of the Hawaiian green sea turtles. Photo by Nina Wu.

A small bus dropped a group of Japanese tourists off across from Laniakea Beach to get a glimpse of the Hawaiian green sea turtles. Photo by Nina Wu.

But they may not know that the turtles are a threatened species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and state laws. And they may not know that you should not feed, touch or sit on the turtles. You should also give them space (at least six feet) to bask in peace as well as a clear path to and from the ocean.

Thanks to volunteers from Malama Na Honu, the turtles are watched over by people who do what they do out of a love for turtles, too, and a desire to see them survive for future generations to see. On a recent visit, a little girl darted past the rope border and in front of a basking turtle to reach her father. Everyone gasped. Luckily, there was no harm done.

Whatever the state Department of Transportation decides to do about the volume of visitors visiting Laniakea and the traffic and parking problems they create, I hope the volunteers will continue to protect the honu, which are also under review for a delisting under the Endangered Species Act.

There are other places to see honu, too. If you see a stranded Hawaiian green sea turtle, call 983-5730 (7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays on Oahu) and page 288-5685 on weekends, holidays and after hours.

Disney cares about monk seals

September 25th, 2013
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Our Hawaiian Monk Seals are capturing the hearts of people from around the world, including Disney. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Our Hawaiian Monk Seals are capturing the hearts of people from around the world, including Disney. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Well, it looks like our Hawaiian monk seals are getting more attention (and funding) from abroad.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has awarded a $25,000 grant to The Marine Mammal Center in its rescue and rehabilitation efforts, along with ongoing scientific research and community education efforts.

The Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito, Calif. (north of San Francisco, on the other side of Golden Gate Bridge), is in the midst of building a brand-new Hawaiian monk seal health care and education center in Kona. The facility will alo offer marine science training and an education and outreach program.

Construction started last year and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

"With only 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left in the world, and a population declining at a rate of 4 percent each year, we must do everything we can to save this species," said Jeff Boehm, executive director of The Marine Mammal Center in a press release. "Building a dedicated rehabilitation hospital in Hawaii and working closely with the local community to inspire monk seal conservation, is a vital part of that effort. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund provides essential funds at a critical tim and we are incredibly grateful for their generous support."

The Marine Mammal Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, in Sausalito since 1975, has rescued and treated more than 18,000 marine mammals including seals, sea lions and whales.

I'm glad the plight of the Hawaiian monk seal (which remained in obscurity for many years) has captured the heart of a California-based non-profit and a global giant like Disney. Even the New York Times (a long way away from any sighting of a monk seal) published a lengthy story May 12 this year titled "Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?"

Then in late May, Jeff Corwin from Animal Planet came to visit Ho‘ailona (formerly known as KP2) our own resident monk seal at Waikiki Aquarium, who has a story of his own to tell.

In August, National Geographic wrote a story about lead scientist Charles Littnan's crittercam project funded by its Conservation Trust. Littnan is engaging middle and high school students on Molokai to help analyze the hours of video.

Debates continue to broil at home, meanwhile, over whether the monk seals should be transferred to the main Hawaiian islands. Many are migrating to the main isles on their own, but fishermen aren't thrilled about it because of competition for the same fish.

Will all these new attention and funding result in better survival rates for our Hawaiian monk seals? It remains to be seen.

Learn more:
disney.com/conservation
Marinemammalcenter.org/monkseal

Here's a video about the Marine Mammal Center by Wild Lens (narrated by someone with a very British accent):

'Seeds of Hope' on PBS Hawai‘i

September 12th, 2013
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PBS Hawai‘i presents the broadcast premiere of "Na Kupu Mana‘Olana: Seeds of Hope" at 9 p.m. next Thursday, Sept. 19.

If you haven't had the opportunity to see this documentary, then here's the chance to see a 56-minute version from the comfort of your home.

Did you know:

>> Hawaii imports more than 80 percent of its food to the isles? "If we're cut off from the mainland, our food supply, we're in big, big trouble." – Dean Okimoto, Nalo Farms.

>> At least 50 percent of Hawaii's farmland has been destroyed over the past five decades?

>> Access to land and water is one of the biggest challenges to farming in Hawaii?

Catch interviews with Hawaii's food growers, ranchers, farmers and educators including Richard Ha (owner, Hamakua Springs Country Farms), Shin Ho (Ho Farms), Kamuela Enos (MA‘O Farms), Chris Kobayashi (Wai‘oli Farm) and Robert Harris (director, Sierra Club Hawaii),  as they tell their personal stories.

While examining food, water and land issues (as well both sides of the GMO debate) critical to Hawaii, "Seeds of Hope" also gives us hope for the future of the Aloha State's future food security by profiling farmers who are getting creative, going organic and finding answers by returning to local and traditional methods of growing food. The film also finds educators who are cultivating the next generation of farmers.

Its message is that consumers also have power to sway the future.

"It's up to the consumer to say, yes, I'd rather buy produce from Hawaii." Jack Spruance, president, Molokai Livestock Coop.

The film, written and directed by Hawai‘i island filmmaker Danny Miller,  was an official selection (and nominee for the Golden Orchid Award) at the 2012 Hawaii International Film Festival.

BLACKFISH

August 20th, 2013
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Wow. I just saw "Blackfish," the documentary by director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite at Consolidated Theatres.

The film created a buzz at the Sundance Film Festival and opens at Kahala Theatres 8 in Honolulu Aug. 23. If you ever went to marine parks or have any love for marine animals, I highly recommend that you go see it. If you're a parent with young kids, I also recommend that you see it.

Cowperthwaite's documentary, which was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films, is eye-opening, exposing the dark underbelly of what really happens behind the scenes at a place like SeaWorld. Actually, the film takes SeaWorld on directly, interviewing several of its former (and now disillusioned) trainers about what went on.

The pivotal focus of the film is on the Feb. 24 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, an experienced and well-respected trainer. During a routine performance, she was dragged underwater, thrashed and killed by Tilikum, a 12,000-pound bull orca at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. in front of a horrified audience, resulting in a lawsuit by OSHA.

Tilikum in a scene from BLACKFISH. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures (Credit: Cabriela Cowperthwaite).

Tilikum in a scene from BLACKFISH. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures (Credit: Gabriela Cowperthwaite).

As a child, I went to Seaworld and have memories of being splashed when Shamu the whale crashed down in the water. Everyone did. We never thought twice about it. The amusement park is a place of sunshine, happy smiles and the trainers lead you to believe that the animals enjoy performing.

Until a tragedy like Brancheau's death happens, and you say, "Wait a minute. What happened?"

That's what started the whole project for film director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, herself a mother of 7-year-old twins who took them places like SeaWorld. Cowperthwaite, who in an interview said she never planned to make this documentary, nevertheless got drawn in by the need to put the truth out there.

It turns out Brancheau was not the first, but the second trainer (and third person) to be killed by Tilikum, 20 years apart. But none of the trainers interviewed knew anything about the previous incidents, and often when there is an accident, the well-oiled PR machine of SeaWorld would blame the tragedies on trainer error.

So we don't have a SeaWorld in Hawaii, nor any Orca whales in captivity here. But many of us have been to marine amusement parks on the U.S. mainland. The film may also cause you to start examining the larger picture of animals in captivity for the purpose of entertainment.

Some highlights:

>> "There's no record of any Orca doing any harm in the wild," says Orca researcher Howard Garrett. But dozens of injuries (and several deaths) have been caused by Orcas in captivity, which have hurt one another and the trainers they work with. Tilikum, the whale that killed Dawn Brancheau, had previously killed two other people as well.

>> The film delves into Tilikum's history. He was plucked from the ocean near Iceland as a 2-year-old calf, separated from his mother (who grieved and would not leave even though she could have), then mistreated at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada. At night, Tilikum was held in a small module, pretty much a prison cell for a mammal meant to travel miles in the boundless ocean. Former diver and Orca hunter John Crowe, who remembers rounding up the whale calves in Puget Sound, says: "This is the worst thing I've ever done."

>> Natural life span. In the wild, marine biologists say there's evidence Orcas can live 60 to 70 years, but SeaWorld staff are trained to tell the public that they live an average of 25 to 35 years, and that they live longer in captivity because of vet care. Who do you believe?

Cowperthwaite skillfully weaves imagery and footage (including the 911 call placed for Brancheau) with heartfelt interviews, capturing some of the most powerful quotes and emotions from former trainers at SeaWorld.

You can see that the trainers loved the whales and the thrill of working with those magnificent creatures, but were naive and surprisingly, had very little scientific knowledge about Orcas.

Just like "The Cove," in 2009, I think "Blackfish" is going to make an impact. It's kind of a wake-up call that will make anyone think twice about going to a place like Seaworld again. "Free Willy" (1993) was a movie with a similar message, but this one isn't fiction — it's based on real life, which strikes a deeper chord.

Should these majestic creatures of the ocean deep be held in captivity and trained to do tricks for our entertainment? What are the consequences? More importantly, is it morally wrong to forcefully take a whale calf from its mother for the purpose of making money?

Needless to say, SeaWorld declined to be interviewed for the documentary.

To its credit, SeaWorld claims it plays a role in both conservation education. Go to its corporate website and you will actually see links to "education" and conservation." The link to conservation is cleverly branded as  www.seaworldcares.com, and includes stories on how the SeaWorld Rescue Team returned Claire the Manatee to her natural environment, for instance. The team also responded to the BP Gulf oil spill, saving more than 100 endangered sea turtles.

Here are some rebuttals from SeaWorld and the film published on indiewire.

While watching the film uncovers an ugly truth, unveiling footage of accident after tragic accident, as well as confessionals from former trainers,  it also makes us love and respect these Orcas even more. We discover they are marine mammals that stick together like family and display linguistic, cognitive and emotional abilities (as well as the smarts to try outsmarting their captors by having one group leading them away from the calfs and mothers).

In my generation, we may have accepted sea life amusement parks blindly but in the next generation, maybe this won't be the case and there will be some change.

The film opens and closes with images of the Orcas swimming in their natural environment. What it conveys is the beauty of that, and of the "blackfish" as "an animal that possesses great, spiritual power, not to be meddled with."

Orca whales in the wild, majestic and free. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures (from Christopher Towey).

Orca whales in the wild, majestic and free. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures (from Christopher Towey).

To learn more about orcas, also known as killer whales, visit the following websites:

www.Orcanetwork.org

www.OrcaAware.org

Kids watch Tilikum the Orca whale from behind a window. BLACKFISH. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures (by Gabriela Cowperthwaite).

Kids watch Tilikum the Orca whale from behind a window at Sea Life Park Orlando. BLACKFISH. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures (by Gabriela Cowperthwaite).