Some 400 predator traps aim to restore endangered Hawaiian seabirds on Kauai
POHAKEA, KAUAI - There are nearly 400 predator traps scattered throughout Kauai's Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve.
A team of predator control specialists with DLNR's Division of Forestry and Wildlife is flown to the remote area via helicopter on a weekly basis to check the traps and set new ones.
"It's a tough job, we put a lot of time and effort into this," said Kyle Pias with the Natural Area Reserve program.
The area is a prime breeding and nesting place for the critically endangered Hawaiian Petrel, or Ua'u, and Newell's Shearwater, or A'o.
A recent analysis of long-term radar studies on Kauai revealed that between 1993 and 2013, populations of Ua'u declined by 78 percent and A'o by 94 percent.
The Hono O Na Pali predator control effort started in 2014.
Since then, the DLNR says 55 feral cats have been captured in live cage traps and euthanized. These are the birds' no. 1 predator.
Automatic traps placed at the base of trees have also killed 1,392 rats.
"The black rats focus mainly on chicks and eggs," said Pias.
Over on Lehua island, another seabird sanctuary less than a mile from Niihau, state officials are eradicating rats a different way by dropping poison pellets from helicopters.
It's the DLNR's second attempt after efforts failed in 2009, but Fishermen are worried the poison will end up in the ocean and harm marine life.
After past drops, dead fish washed up on Niihau and a whale calf beached itself.
"It's a bad idea with the research we've done and found out compared to what they're saying," said Harold Vidinha wuth Kekaha Hawaiian Homestead Association. "There's other ways to do this. More expensive, but a lot safer."
"We may never know exactly for sure what caused the event in 2009, but we know that Diphacinone was not found in those fish tissues," said Josh Atwood, DLNR State Invasive Species Coordinator. "We don't anticipate that they were connected at all."
DLNR says that although cats and rats have become a focal point at this stage in the project, pigs and owls are also predators that have had detrimental effects on the birds' survival.
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