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If you’ve taken a drive down to Manele recently, you may have noticed a largescale fence installed in the area. The fence, spanning 3.75 miles, will protect about 940 acres of natural resources, cultural sites and resort grounds from damage caused by deer and sheep.
“What we hope to do with this project is first get the fence up, then get the deer out,” said Jonathan Sprague, co-director of Conservation for Pulama Lanai. “We’re going for zero deer so that we can start restoring and protecting this ecologically and culturally important area.”
Protecting a Priority Conservation Area
The Manele-Hulopoe coastal area was identified as a priority conservation area. It was once home to a few endangered plant species which have since been extirpated. Knowing that deer would damage any reintroduced plants in the area, the Pulama Lanai conservation team has held off replanting until the area is cleared of deer.
This part of the island is also where more than 2,000 uau kane burrows are located. Although not endangered, uau kane, or wedgetail shearwaters, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. They are critical to Lanai’s ecosystem, transporting key nutrients from sea to land.
Protecting Important Cultural Sites
The fence will also protect many important cultural sites in and around the recreational harbor and mauka of the coastal area. Once used for agriculture, lithic workshops, burial sites and koa lawaia, today many of these places are being trampled by deer and buried by sediment as a result of overgrazing.
With less vegetation on the landscape, water picks up speed during heavy rains and carries sedimentation down toward Manele Small Boat Harbor. As deer are removed from the area and vegetation grows back, less sedimentation will make its way down to the ocean, preserving cultural sites along the way and improving water quality in the Marine Life Conservation District.
Reducing Damage to Resorts
A fair amount of investment has been made in replacing plants in the Manele-Hulopoe resort area damaged by deer. Over the 15-20-year lifespan of this fence, it will be less costly to exclude deer in the area than to fix all the damage that would otherwise be caused by the deer.
No Access Impacts
While the fence is intended to keep deer out, people will still have access to the coastline and highways will not be blocked, so cars will be able to drive through the area as usual. The only difference is now there will be a large fence serving many important preservation purposes.
“With less deer over time, the goal is for the Manele-Hulopoe area to be a thriving coastal restoration and recreation area,” said Sprague.
Another fencing project is currently underway at Hii surrounding the densest colony area of the endangered uau, or Hawaiian petrels. Once completed, the fence will help protect the birds from predators like deer, sheep, cats and rodents. Unfortunately, wild animals aren’t the only challenges seabirds on Lanai face.
Peak Seabird Fallout Season
The timing for the Manele-Hulopoe fence coincides with seabird fallout season, which runs from mid-September through mid-November, when young seabirds growing in underground burrows first emerge to take on life as new adults. These seabirds tend to use natural light like the moonlight to navigate, but often become disoriented by artificial lights such as streetlights and building lights, falling to the ground due to exhaustion. Once downed, seabirds become vulnerable to predators and vehicles.
On Lanai, downed seabirds are often found in Manele-Hulopoe and in Lanai City. In the Manele-Hulopoe area, about 15 uau kane are found downed each year. And in Lanai City, about two-five of the endangered uau are found.
If you see a downed seabird, whether an uau kane or endangered uau, contact Pulama Lanai’s Conservation Office at (808) 563-0013 to arrange for pickup. “Please leave a message if there is no answer,” said Sprague. “Our team will get back to you as soon as we can.” If comfortable, rescuers can put downed seabirds in a cardboard box with a towel underneath. Don’t worry about feeding it water or food as the birds won’t eat or drink.”