First Predator-Proof Fence in Hawaiꞌi Completed – Shearwaters, Albatrosses, Other Birds to Benefit

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, bjohns@abcbirds.org

Laysan Albatross by Michael Walther
Laysan Albatross by Michael Walther

(Washington, D.C. May 11, 2011) Native seabirds such as the Laysan Albatross and Wedge-tailed Shearwater will benefit from a just-completed predator-proof fence that creates a 59-acre area exclosure at Ka'ena Point Natural Area Reserve located at the northwest tip of the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i.

The project has been a very successful cooperative effort involving Hawaiꞌi's Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Hawai'i chapter of The Wildlife Society, and local communities.

The 6.5-foot-high fence is the first of its kind in the United States. The same system has been used successfully in 30 New Zealand coastal and forest projects and underwent earlier testing on lava flows on the Big Island. The fence provides a combination of features including fine mesh, a rolled hood at the top, and a skirt buried underground, designed to prevent animals from jumping, climbing, squeezing through, or digging their way under the fence and into the protected area.

Ground-nesting seabirds in the area have been targets of dog, cat, and mongoose predation for decades, with the result that up to 15% of chicks are preyed upon each year. The predators have especially preyed on the young birds before they can fly. Rats have also had an impact, eating seabird eggs and chicks, and even attacking adult birds. Rats and mice also eat endangered native plants and seeds causing additional habitat degradation.

“The new fence creates a predator-free sanctuary for the birds at Kaꞌena Point, and demonstrates what can be achieved for Hawai‘i's native species when the resources are secured and wildlife made a priority at the top political levels. We look forward to working with federal and state agencies and conservation organizations in Hawaii to implement similar projects to protect Hawaii's threatened birds,” said George Wallace, Vice President for Oceans and Islands for American Bird Conservancy, the nation's leading bird conservation organization.

“We are very excited to be moving into the next phase of the project by removing the existing predators from within the reserve and beginning active restoration of the native species. We hope this is the first of many projects like this in Hawaii” said Lindsay Young, the project coordinator with Pacific Rim Conservation.

The 2,040-foot long marine-grade stainless steel fence was built by a seven-person New Zealand and Hawaiian crew. The fence's path largely follows a World War II-era roadbed that skirts the bottom of the hill behind the point, above the sand dunes. By following this track at the base of the slope, the greatest area can be enclosed with minimum interference to scenic vistas and without further disturbance to the delicate habitat.

Public access to the area will not be changed due to this fence. People will continue to have access to Kaꞌena Point Natural Area Reserve for fishing, hiking, bicycling, and other recreational and educational activities, entering through unlocked gates. To reduce visual impact, the fence is painted green to blend into the natural surroundings. To prevent doors being left or propped open, a double-door system is used so that both doors cannot be open at the same time. The doorway area will be large enough to fit up to nine people at a time.

Every effort was made to take traditional Hawaiian cultural issues into consideration in the building of the fence. For example, access doors were incorporated at locations where the fencing crosses existing trails at both the Mokulēꞌia and Waiꞌanae entrances, and fence designers worked with local Hawaiian cultural leaders to provide a third door above the Leina a ka ꞌUhane, (spirit leap), where traditional beliefs hold that Hawaiian spirits leap into the afterlife.

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