By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
MOKULEIA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Man is giving Mother Nature a hand to protect and preserve one of the last frontiers on Oahu.
Construction will begin this week on a "pest proof" fence at Ka'ena Point.
"When people arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, we brought a lot of our pets with us, in some cases or food sources, and those mammals such as cats, dogs, pigs, etcetera, they pray on a lot of our native species," said Lindsay Young.
Seabirds are killed by dogs. Their eggs are eaten by rats. Rats also gobble up seeds preventing the growth and spread of native plants. Survival is a struggle.
"We did the annual wedged tailed shearwater count at Ka'ena Point Tuesday, Nov. 9 and the number of birds trying to nest is about normal. We had about 2,500 pairs, but the number of fledglings they produced was only about 350, which is about half of what we normally see," Young said.
To protect the birds and restore native plan growth the state, with funding from federal government, will fence off 59 acres at a cost of roughly $250,000. The fence will stretch almost half a mile from the ocean on one side of Ka'ena Point to the other.
Identical pest proof fences are already being used in New Zealand where they were designed.
"We spent four or five years testing the fence with the range of pests we have there and then we came to Hawaii first in 2002 and built trial fences on the Big Island out near Kona," said Tim Day, one of the founders and principals with Xcluder Pest Proof Fencing.
"We basically designed a fence that will keep everything from mice, and for a juvenile mouse you're talking about a gap of no bigger than a quarter inch, six millimeters, to keep them out," Day added.
People who want to fish, or just enjoy nature, will be able to walk through a double gate in the fence at any time as long as they do not bring pets.
The state spent three years explaining the project to thousands of people on both the Waianae Coast and the North Shore. It maintains the vast majority of people approve of the fence, but not everyone is convinced the it is a good idea.
"The area is very sacred to native Hawaiians and a lot of us feel that there should be no construction and especially a fence that would impact our religious beliefs," said Summer Nemeth, who has filed a lawsuit in state court hoping to block construction.
The fence is scheduled to be finished by mid to late December. After that the rats and other predators will be eradicated from the protected area and native plants and animals can begin to flourish.