Cat-Proof Fence Enclosure Built on Mauna Kea to Protect Nesting ʻUaʻu

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Photo: Hoʻi Nā Manu I Kaupakuhale marked the completion of a protective enclosure for burrowing ʻuaʻu and other native birds
Hoʻi Nā Manu I Kaupakuhale marked the completion of a protective enclosure for burrowing ʻuaʻu and other native birds. – Courtesy Photo

Active burrows discovered on DHHL lands for first time in more than six-decades.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) has completed installation of a cat-proof fence enclosure on Mauna Kea, to safeguard and enhance an existing nesting area for ʻuaʻu, an endangered native seabird. The enclosure was completed and celebrated on a parcel of DHHL land March 22, 2024.

The ceremony, Hoʻi Nā Manu I Kaupakuhale (the birds return to the highest perches of , Mauna Kea), was conducted in partnership with researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

“ʻUaʻu were once an abundant cultural resource of Mauna Kea and an important part of the ecosystem therefore the purpose of our ceremony is to call the ʻuaʻu home where they will be protected,” said Kualiʻi Camara, DHHL ʻĀina Mauna Resource Manager. “Once ʻuaʻu were rediscovered on Mauna Kea we moved quickly and collaboratively to protect this vulnerable population; we’re working to envision and manifest the health and abundance of ʻuaʻu on Mauna Kea once again.”

In May 2021, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo researchers observed ʻuaʻu, or the Hawaiian petrel, flying above Puʻu Kaiwiiwi and actively nesting on DHHL lands. ʻUaʻu have not been recorded in the area since 1954. The university through theCenter for Maunakea Stewardship (CMS) initially contributed $265,000 to fund the survey of Native Hawaiian birds and bats within UH managed lands and adjacent areas on Mauna Kea.

“UH is deeply committed to environmental stewardship and conservation, and this installation not only protects a delicate nesting area, it also showcases the strength of collaborative efforts in caring for our ʻāina,” said Greg Chun, executive director of CMS. “We extend our gratitude to DHHL for this opportunity to work collaboratively to preserve these precious ʻuaʻu, who have returned to this wahi pana.”

Since the discovery of their nesting area efforts have been made to survey for moreʻuaʻu activity and to protect burrowing birds. The primary focus has been on trapping predators, particularly feral cats, to minimize threats to the nesting ʻua’u.

“As stewards of ʻāina we’re dedicated to protecting and revitalizing our lands from mauka to makai,” said Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Director Kali Watson. “Preserving our natural resources not only protects the land but also upholds our cultural traditions and identity as Kanaka for the benefit of generations to come.”

Work on the more than 8, 200-foot fence began in January 2022. The fence surrounds 93-acres of DHHL land situated approximately 9,000 feet above sea level near Puʻu Kahinahina. The fence is six feet tall and includes a three-foot cat-proof extension and a two-foot buried skirt to deter feral cats from accessing the enclosure.