HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - After three years of construction in a remote area of Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, a five-mile, $1 million fence now protects endangered Hawaiian petrels from their greatest threat: feral cats.
The fence now protects more than 600 acres of 'ua'u nesting habitat on Mauna Loa.
The seafaring 'ua'u nests in deep lava rock burrows on the rugged high-altitude slopes of Mauna Loa. In order to protect the species from cats, federal, state and nonprofit entities partnered to build the fence.
Construction began in 2013, and was limited to January through May to avoid disturbing nesting birds.
The high-altitude project was grueling. Crews worked and camped at elevations between 8,000 and 10,000 feet in steep and loose lava rock terrain, and in weather that ranged from hail and high wind to extreme heat.
And because the site is so remote, gear and staff had to be flown in and out.
"To our knowledge, this is the largest fence of its kind in the U.S.," said National Park Service biologist Kathleen Misajon, in a news release. "To build such a fence is an incredible feat, and an important victory for a native species that is extremely rare on Hawai'i Island."
Endangered Hawaiian petrels are very rare on Hawaii Island, with just 75 nesting pairs in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and another small population on the slopes of Kohala.