Ecologists, biologists, and botanists report the "predator proof" fence at Kaena Point is doing exactly what it was designed to do; protect native plants and animals so they can thrive at the 59 acre Kaena Point Coastal Reserve.
The fence was finished in early 2011. It features a fine mesh screen that prevents dogs, cats, rats, mongooses and mice from entering the reserve and feeding on bird eggs and indigenous plants. Now, without any four legged mammals in the reserve, the sea bird population is growing.
"In the short time since the fence has been up we've seen a huge increase in the (wedge tailed) shearwater numbers and reproductive success, and there are a lot more albatross this year," said Lindsay Young, wildlife biologist with Pacific Rim Conservation.
Young told Hawaii News Now there were fewer than 400 wedge tailed shearwaters in the reserve in 2010. In 2011, after the fence went up, there were more than 1,700. That is at least 200 more than the previous record of 1,500.
The albatross population is also growing, but exact numbers won't be known until they finish their breeding cycle.
"Sea birds are colonial nesters, especially the albatross, and they tend to be attracted to other albatross so we could definitely see more birds coming in the future and a lot of the birds that are here were hatched out on other islands," said Mike Lohr, avian ecologist with Pacific Rim Conservation.
There are more native plants and healthier plants growing in the reserve since the fence was erected.
"There's been more seed set with some of our native sandalwood. I think that the plants are really going to respond to a lack of predators. Rats and mice eat seeds and flowers and so those plants will probably come back and we'll see more seedlings," said Marigold Zoll, Natural Area Reserve Specialist for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Even the Hawaiian monk seal is protected by the fence.
"Cats can transmit toxoplasmosis to monk seals, so by not having any cats in there and therefore not having any of their feces, which are a source of toxoplasmosis, it protects the monk seals," Young said.
Because the fence has proved to be effective, the state may bring in more rare and endanger species in the hope they will thrive at Kaena.
"I just think this is a really unique chance to bring this as closely back to the native habitat that we can," concluded Maggie Sporck, DLNR botanist.