Garden party to raise funds, support for protecting Hawaii’s endangered ‘alae ‘ula

Barb Forsyth

HAWAII KAI—No historical population estimates are available for the endemic ‘alae ‘ula, known as the world’s most secretive native waterbird, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The ‘alae ‘ula population throughout Hawaii saw dramatic declines due to loss of wetland habitat, introduced predators, alien plants, introduced fish, disease, hybridization, and environmental contaminants.

Community group Livable Hawaii Kai Hui (LHK Hui) together with The Oahu Club will hold a garden party fundraiser to help with ‘alae ‘ula preservation efforts that improve the wetland habitat located off Hawaii Kai Drive.

Mardi LaPrade, an Oahu Club member, has worked with the LHK Hui to establish appropriate oversight partnerships to help with conservation planning, including wetland delineation of the area and the development of educational and community-based kokua programs.

LaPrade noted that “according to the 2005 Fish and Wildlife report, there are estimated three to four hundred ‘alae ‘ula in the world, inhabiting only Oahu and Kauai.” Because of this, the restoration and maintenance of this little wetland would greatly benefit this species.

“Each little wetland pocket helps to maintain the well-being and genetic diversity of wetland species in Hawaii,” said wetland expert Ron Walker at a recent LHK Hui community gathering. Walker also serves as an adviser to the LHK Hui.

LHK Hui president Elizabeth Reilly said “Hawaii Kai is one of the most built-out communities in Hawaii where development, storm water, and fertilizer runoff has lead to a nutrient overload in Maunalua Bay causing widespread invasive algal blooms. The wetland helps to protect the Maunalua watershed and compliments ongoing efforts to restore Maunalua Bay to its productive natural state.” 

The wetlands, also known as Keawawa wetland is still connected to Kuapa Pond and acts as a buffer during storms; preventing runoff by slowing inland water flow in heavy rains and flooding, trapping/filtering sediments, stemming soil erosion and thus retaining and transforming nutrients that would otherwise overflow into Kuapa Pond and the ocean.

As of late, the group incurred over $5,000 in general area clean-up costs, which included trimming coconut and other trees, hand removal of green waste (some piles measuring up to 4’x4’), and mulching on site. In addition, over the past four months, the LHK Hui hosted two volunteer gatherings and one educational session for new, incoming East-West Center students.

“Demand for community and educational engagement is high,” LaPrade said, “we just need funds to print suitable material for the different age groups.”

LHK Hui and the Oahu Club is calling their fundraiser the Mad Hatter Garden Party, where the community can make new friends and raise funds for much needed work supplies and educational materials. LaPrade hopes the garden party becomes an annual event.

Guest speakers at the Mad Hatter Garden Party include wetland expert Ron Walker and Native Hawaii plant specialist Rick Barboza of Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a plant nursery in Kaneohe. Live groove-centric and funk-tastic music will be provided by Jive Nene, an eclectic band of brothers dedicated to the environment, Jeff Mikulina, Isaac Moriwake, and Mark Glick with vocal extraordinaire Simone Cole.

The Mad Hatter Garden Party will be held Saturday, March 5, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Oahu Club. The cost is $20 per person, which includes Music by Jive Nene, Ono Pasta Bar, guest speakers, and door prizes. Please wear a fun, expressive hat!

Persons interested in volunteering may contact Mardi LaPrade at (808) 348-2847. Tickets are available at through PayPal, or mail-in to Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, P.O. Box 25493, Honolulu, Hawaii 96825.