Sunday, June 18, 2017

Worldwide Voyage: Kahoʻolawe

On Saturday June 10, navigators, captains and crew of Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage sailing canoes Hōkūleʻa (Hawaiʻi), Hikianalia (Aotearoa) and Faʻafaite (Tahiti) arrived on Kahoʻolawe as part of the final leg of a three year voyage around Island Earth.

Welcomed with oli and hula by Ka Pā Hula O Ka Lei Lehua, led by Kumu Snowbird Puananiopaoakalani Bento, the entire group of more than 40 voyagers waited in the tide until everyone was shuttled from the canoes to take their first step onto the Island in unison. Chants were exchanged in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and Tahitian before the group of 30-plus halau members, restoration volunteers, Protect Kahoʻolawe 'Ohana (PKO) representatives and Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) staff lined up to honi each voyager.

“In 2004, Master Navigator Mau Piailug stated at an awa ceremony at Kealaikahiki (on Kahoʻolawe) that this was an important place for the canoes to return to in the continuing tradition of celestial navigation,” remarks KIRC Executive Director Mike Nāhoʻopiʻi, “welcoming the canoes today signifies the future opportunities for Kahoʻolawe to help perpetuate not only traditional navigation but to promote the use of traditional canoes as a means of connection, as embodied by our new kanu waʻa program.”

In October of 2004, the KIRC, together with the PKO, Grand Master Navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal, and the captains and crew members of the eight voyaging canoes of Hawai'i, dedicated an observation platform at Lae'o Kealaikahiki for use as a centerpiece for the education and training of novice and future way finders from the voyaging 'ohana (family) of Hawaiʻi. Led by Lopaka White, the KIRC’s kanu waʻa program (kanu: to plant; wa‘a: canoe) offers an access guide to provide supervision, safety and guidance in Reserve projects while canoe clubs contribute transportation, 500 native plants and a minimal access fee for each seasoned paddler.

“Anytime you can travel to Kahoʻolawe by canoe, regardless of what canoe it is, it moves you,” remarks Lopaka White, who was part of the Hikianalia crew arriving on Kahoʻolawe from the 10-hour voyage from Hawaiʻi Island, “you get a different sense of connection that builds an intimate experience with the place, the canoe, the people you are with and the place you came from because you are never cut off from those spiritual things that happen when you are immersed in the ocean, rain, wind and natural surroundings. You experience what ancient seafarers did.” He continues, “the role reversal of being on the volunteer side exposed me to other styles of leadership. You think more about the skills displayed that make a great leader. Amongst the many lessons learned and experiences throughout the voyage from Big Island to Kahoʻolawe to Molokaʻi to Oʻahu, I can think about new ways to teach.”

The mission of the KIRC is to implement the vision for Kaho‘olawe in which the kino (body) of Kaho‘olawe is restored and nā poe o Hawai‘i (the people of Hawai‘i) care for the land. The organization is managed by a seven-member Commission and a committed staff specializing in ocean, restoration, operations, administration and operations. The mission of the Worldwide Voyage is to chart a new course toward sustainable practices for food, energy and our global environment.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The ʻŌpeʻapeʻa of Kahoʻolawe

In December 2015, the Kahoʻolawe ʻŌpeʻapeʻa Working Group was formed with partners from USGS/PIERC, KIRC, Island Conservation and Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project — each a partner of the Kahoʻolawe Island Seabird Restoration Project.

From this collaboration, a standardized method was developed to survey the presence or absence of Hawaiian Hoary Bats on Kahoʻolawe by installing bat detectors across the island in varying habitats. An endangered species, theʻōpeʻapeʻa (Lasiurus cinereus semotus) poses many biological questions that need clarification, e.g. are they on island? If so, how do they utilize the island habitat?

After one year of data collection, preliminary analysis has confirmed the presence of ʻōpeʻapeʻa— with interesting discoveries unique to Kahoʻolawe:

  • From the data recorders, the presence of the Hawaiian bats occur only seasonally. 
  • The first bat detection occurred in June 2016 and detections stayed low until late summer where detectors reached a peak detection rate of 26% probability across the island. Furthermore, all 8 of the Bat detectors recorded bats in all habitats across the Island.
  • After September and into December, the detections dropped off until in January the detections ceased altogether. 

In addition to this data, the time of night the bats were recorded revealed another interesting find: the bats were not recorded until 2-3 hours after sunset and only until 3-4 hours before sunrise. This information suggests that the ʻōpeʻapeʻa migrate to Kahoʻolawe and then return “home” on a nightly basis, but doesn’t rule out the possibility of a small resident population. The first year of data shows bats being most active from late summer into winter with the peak detection rate in September.
It is important to note while this is only one year worth of data; this is just the preliminary analysis. However, this answers our initial questions: the entire island of Kahoʻolawe is an important habitat presumably for the insect food resources that this uniquely Hawaiian endangered species feeds on. The ʻōpeʻapeʻa might even be coming over for copulation and breeding. It is hoped that funding can be continued in order to learn more about the ʻōpeʻapeʻa of Kahoʻolawe. The Hawaiian Bat is threatened by loss of habitat, deforestation and mortality due to wind turbines and predators. Future reforestation projects on Kahoʻolawe may enhance the habitat and range of this species.

Questions to investigate: 

  • What is the density of ʻōpeʻapeʻa during the peak times? 
  • Is there a habitat type that could sustain a permanent population on Kahoʻolawe? 
  • How are the wind farms on Maui affecting the seasonal and nightly migrations to Kahoʻolawe? 


The Hawaiian name ʻōpeʻapeʻa, is inspired by the Hawaiian hoary bat's image in flight, which is attributed to the resemblance of canoe sails and the bottom half of the much-celebrated taro leaf (kalo). The term “hoary” refers to their tan, reddish-brown, and silvery coats that appear frosted over. The ʻōpeʻapeʻa is our state mammal.