Can a 2,000ft fence save Hawaii’s rare native birds from destruction?


The Kīlauea Point national wildlife refuge is aiming to keep invasive species out and encourage native habitat to thrive

Before the first Polynesian settlers arrived roughly 1,500 years ago, the Hawaiian Islands were ruled from the sky. Not a single land-dwelling reptile or mammal called the archipelago home – just winged insects, one variety of bat, and a truly vast array of birds.

While Hawaii is still flush with life today, many of those birds are now gone – roughly 67% of all endemic Hawaiian birds have been wiped from existence since humans first arrived on the islands. Although habitat loss – and more recently, climate change – have played a role in that decline, one especially persistent threat to these native birds has been predatory invasive species, which were introduced – inadvertently or otherwise – to the islands by humans. For example: feral rats stowed away on canoes used by early Polynesian settlers.

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