The Hawaiian Islands are the most geographically isolated archipelago in the world, which has given rise to some incredible species over time. Endemic species include carnivorous caterpillars, giant dragonflies and bizarrely marked happyface spiders, but the island chain is known for more than just its weird bugs. Sadly, habitat encroachment and invasive species, such as goats introduced by settlers in the 1850s, have increased the vulnerability of some of Hawaii’s native wildlife. Below are some of the endangered species that reside in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Native Hawaiians call this gray petrel ‘u’au for its ”haunting, nocturnal call,” which has become somewhat of a rarity, even in the national park. Subsisting primarily on squid, the petrel is very tied to the sea and only returns to the islands to nest in rock crevices and burrows during the subtropical spring from March to October. Its presence has been dwindling since settlement of the islands introduced new predators — such as feral cats, which prey upon chicks — and diseases. Visitors can still see them in the summit area of Mauna Loa in the park.
Hawaiian geese, also known as nene, were once incredibly common throughout the Hawaiian Islands. However, by the mid-1940s their number had been reduced to only 30 animals, due primarily to introduction of new predators. Fortunately, the geese have been successfully reintroduced to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park following a successful captive breeding campaign in the 1970s. Nene are known for the distinctive diagonal stripes that decorate their long necks, and for their feet, which are only slightly webbed — specially adapted for walking on rough ground like lava plains.
The hatching saga of the hawksbill sea turtle has been well-documented by conservationists and visitors alike. Under cover of night, the mother turtle comes ashore to dig a nest with her flippers, where she deposits about 150 eggs that incubate under the sand for two months. Then, all at once, the young turtles hatch and dig themselves out, heading for the ocean as fast as their flippers can carry them.
At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this drama plays out on protected beaches at Halape, Apua Point, and Keauhou. The turtles remain endangered due to predation and poaching — their shells are valued as components in jewelry and sold illegally around the world. Visitors can help protect turtles by not camping on the beaches, refraining from lighting campfires, and cleaning up food scraps so as not to attract predators like feral cats and mongoose.