Maui News

TV Special to Document Lehua Island Restoration Project

October 18, 2017, 4:35 PM HST
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Lehua Island, located less than a mile off the coast of Ni‘ihau, is a Hawai‘i State Seabird Sanctuary that provides habitat for at least 17 species of seabirds, 25 native plants, including 14 Hawai‘i endemics which are found nowhere else in the world, as well as non-native Pacific rats.


A recent project aimed at eradicating the invasive rats from the island will be the subject of a 30-minute TV documentary showcasing the operation from beginning to end.

“We see this as an opportunity to show people exactly what happened during the trio of aerial applications of rodenticide in August and September, as well as to highlight the stunning beauty of Lehua Island, the incredible diversity of bird life possible on a rat-free island, and the tremendous amount of planning and thought that led up to the eradication project” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “Few people actually get to go to Lehua and I think viewers will be astounded that this little island off Kaua‘i’s west side is so rich in life – with the successful demise of rats there, soon to be a much richer place in all respects.”


The project was under scrutiny in September after social media posts emerged showing dead fish and birds washing on shore that posters claimed were killed by the rodenticide being used to eradicate the rats. Officials argued it was highly unlikely that it was the cause of the multiple deaths.


Officials say the rats have a negative effect on native plants and seeds, which imperils the entire ecosystem. They say impacts can contribute to erosion which can in turn impair near-shore marine and coral ecosystems and fisheries.

Island Conservation is the world renowned organization contracted by the State to conduct the restoration project. Dr. Patty Baiao, Hawai‘i Program Manager for IC, explained, “This show is incredibly visual and is in alignment with our oft-stated goal of being completely transparent about the restoration project. We understand and appreciate community concerns about dropping rodenticide on an island, but hope that when people see and hear from the dozens of really dedicated individuals closest to this project, they will come to the realization that this was done with extraordinary care, thought, pre-planning and execution.”

A helicopter has dropped three applications of bait pellets onto the island since August.


Officials say while no rats have been spotted by monitoring teams since after the first aerial application in August, Lehua Island will not be declared rat-free until a year after the last application. Rats are documented to be voracious predators of seabird eggs, chicks, and the seeds of native plants that seabirds rely on.

The television program includes interviews with project leaders and participants, with community members, cultural practitioners, and outside experts who all reinforce the science and cultural reasons for the removal of rats from Lehua.

The documentary is scheduled for broadcast on KFVE-TV (K5) on Saturday, Oct. 21st and Sunday, Oct. 22nd at 9:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. respectively, the program was produced by DLNR with support from the Lehua Island Restoration Steering Committee; the group of government agencies, non-profit and community organizations, and other supporters involved in the eradication of rats.

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