Rare corals At Waikiki Aquarium may someday save species - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Rare corals At Waikiki Aquarium may someday save species

Richard Klobuchar Richard Klobuchar
Andrew Rossiter Andrew Rossiter

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - The Waikiki Aquarium is nurturing 20 live coral specimens recently harvested from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, also known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The 20 specimens include five different coral species, all uncommon in the main Hawaiian Islands.

"All are doing well, doing very well right now. Polyps are extended. They are actually seeing new growth already in just a week's period of time. The places where the corals were fragmented have already begun to heal over with healthy tissue," said Richard Klobuchar, a biologist and coral specialist at the aquarium.

The aquarium plans to grow the corals for about a year, then use them in a new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Exhibit.

"The new exhibit will be a very accurate replica of the ecology of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahanaumokuakea. One of the big differences that people who swim locally and that exhibit will be that it will include a lot of table corals, which are very very rare on the main Hawaiian Islands," said Andrew Rossiter, Waikiki Aquarium Director.

The exhibit will serve two purposes. It will make marine life from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands available for residents and visitors on Oahu to enjoy. It will also establish a genetic reserve of these rare corals in captivity. Should something wipe-out any of the five species in the wild, scientists may be able to re-introduce the species by using live coral from the aquarium.

"Some of these species are now threatened or verging on the endangered status. By keeping them in captivity and propagating them, we have a coral arch ... a genetic bank ... a reserve ... that scientists and conservationists can use to study these animals and as a safety mechanism, in case something happens in nature," Rossiter said.

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