Hawaii is often called “the extinction capital of the world.” Obviously, this is not a good thing. Species are dying out at an alarming rate. Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon. Back in the 7th century, when the Polynesians first arrived, they brought with them pigs, chickens, dogs and plants that endangered endemic plants and wildlife. The 18th century was just as catastrophic for two reasons: the natives began clearcutting forests and the arrival of the Europeans. The 20th century saw large population growth for Hawaii and the tourism industry boomed. Today, though Hawaii only makes up .25% of the United States land mass, it holds 25% of the country’s endangered species. Here are five endangered species (plus a new listing) you can currently find on Maui.
Hawaiian Goose (nene)
The nene is the Hawaiian state bird. On Maui, thanks to conservation efforts, you can spot nene at Haleakala National Park fairly regularly. However, in 1952 the overall nene population shrank to just 30. In fact, they became extinct on Maui prior to 1890. After being re-introduced to Maui, there are now an estimated 450 on the island with roughly 250 – 300 living on Haleakala. The birds breed well in captivity and now number around 2,500 overall. The nene was listed as an endangered species in 1967.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (honu)
Another success story in conservation here in Hawaii. Though worldwide, green turtle populations are shrinking, in Hawaii, the overall green sea turtle population has increased 53% over the last 25 years! It is against the law to touch and/or harass sea turtles in Hawaii. It’s recommended you remain at least 10 feet away from them on the shore and in the ocean. The Hawaiian green sea turtle was listed endangered in 1978.
Hawaiian Hoary Bat (‘Ope‘ape‘a)
The Hawaiian Hoary Bat is the only native land mammal of Hawaii. The bats have a wing span of between 10 – 13 inches, while weighing about half an ounce. They can be seen on all of the main Hawaiian Islands and can be found both at the summit and in the crater of Haleakala. It was listed as an endangered species in 1970.
Hawaiian Monk Seal (‘Ilio holo I ka uaua)
Endemic (meaning native and not found elsewhere in the world) to Hawaii, the Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. Despite conservation efforts, the number of monk seals is still in decline. Where the Hawaiian hoary bat is the only native land mammal in Hawaii, the Hawaiian monk seal is the only native marine mammal. There are roughly 1,400 monk seals in Hawaii. The majority of the seals reside in the northwest islands, where the numbers are declining. On the main Hawaiian Islands, though, the numbers are actually increasing. The Hawaiian monk seal was designated endangered in 1976.
Humpback Whale (kohola)
Hawaii is the only state in the union in which the north pacific humpback whales will mate and nurse their young. As of 2016, most varieties of humpbacks were actually taken off the endangered species list. While the north pacific humpback whale, the species that visits Hawaii every winter was technically removed from the list, they are still protected by the Endangered Species Act while in the waters of Hawaii (where they breed) and the waters of Alaska (where they feed). The humpback whale was listed as endangered in 1970.
Scarlett Honeycreeper (‘i’iwi)
The Scarlett Honeycreeper just got added to the Endangered Species Act list in September, 2017. It was once one of the most common birds found in Hawaii, living across all the islands. Now nearly the entire population resides in East Maui and small section of the Big Island. This past December, the birds were seen Upcountry in Kula, which experts view as a positive sign.
By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.