Getting To Know The Fascinating Fauna In Hawaii
Many tourists visit Hawaii to experience the world-renowned surfing adventure or see the mesmerizing gallery of volcanoes at the Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. Still, many travel to this tropical paradise to see one of nature’s best works: the diverse wildlife characterized by extraordinary animals and plants. This article will take you through the wonders of the Hawaiian Islands and the most important things to note about animals in the state.
Understanding Hawaii’s Ecosystem
Hawaii is considered an archipelago with eight main islands: Big Island, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. To fully grasp the vastness of Hawaii’s ecological makeup, we must first understand the difference between native and non-native or invasive species. Native fauna or flora naturally exist in a location’s ecosystem through centuries of evolution or natural migration. These plants and animals have found a home in Hawaii without human intervention. On the other hand, people have introduced non-native species into the ecosystem. They are aptly named invasive because they can pose a significant danger to native species by competing for food sources or usurping habitats.
Hawaii currently boasts around 22,000 plant and animal species. Only approximately 5,000 are non-native, leaving 17,000 native species. When we talk about native species, we can break them down further into endemic and non-endemic. Non-endemic species could occur in several other places, while endemic species only exist within the geographic boundaries. A sizable 8,700 species in the Hawaii archipelago are considered endemic.
Despite the marvel of the Hawaii wildlife, it is unfortunately considered the “Endangered Species Capital of the World” because of the constantly declining populations of endemic flora and fauna. A single forest alone on the Big Island houses at least 29 endangered species. Over 100 plant and animal species have gone extinct, and over 200 are teetering on the edge of being wiped out. As a result, Hawaii has several conservation efforts and groups aiming to preserve the remaining life in the archipelago.
Top 4 Native Animals In Hawaii
Whether you are visiting Hawaii for the thrill of outdoor adventures such as ziplining or nature’s serenity and mesmerizing views, you are bound to spot one or two fauna that can take your breath away. Here are the top four most notable native animals in this tropical wonderland!
Hawaiian Monk Seal
It is no surprise that the rarest seal species in the world is found in the planet’s most diverse location. The Hawaiian Monk Seal is endemic to the archipelago and is tagged as endangered, with a generous estimate of 1,500 left. The most common causes of death for Hawaiian Monk Seals include lack of food sources, intentional killing by poachers and wildlife collectors, rising sea levels that result in habitat destruction, shark predation, and the disruptive activities of large fisheries. Although there were initially three monk seal species, only two remain after the Caribbean Monk Seal died out. The Mediterranean Monk Seal is threatened with extinction, with only around 500 left. The Hawaiian Monk Seal is one of only two native mammals in the state, and given the rarity of the monk seal, it is considered the state mammal of Hawaii.
Pacific Manta Ray
As much as surfing under the summer sun sounds tempting to many tourists, night diving is an equally exhilarating experience in Hawaii. A quick visit to the historic Kailua-Kona will get you access to snorkeling activities that allow you to swim with Pacific Manta Rays, majestic and peace-loving sea creatures that average 18 to 23 feet wide but can grow up to 29 feet.
Hawaii has consistently named the rarest species as state animals, as the Nene Goose is its state bird. It is one of the many endemic bird species in the state, and is only present in five out of eight main islands: Maui, Molokai, Big Island, Oahu, and Kauai. There used to be more Nene Goose in Hawaii, but their populations have drastically reduced due to human hunting and invasive species predation. They are around 1.4 feet tall, and are believed to be closely related to the Canada goose. If you want to spot the Nene Goose, try taking a trip to Kauai or the Big Island, as they are often seen flying between their feeding and nesting grounds.
Hawaiian Hoary Bat
Accompanying the Hawaiian Monk Seal as the only other native mammal in the archipelago is the Hawaiian Hoary Bat. Like its fellow mammal, this animal is also endemic to Hawaii. However, they are related to the other Hoary Bat species found in North America, Central America, South America, and the Galapagos Islands. Female Hawaiian Hoary Bats are more prominent than males, but they both weigh between 14 to 18 grams (0.04 ounces). These bats are only active at night and feed on insects. The state used to be widely populated with this species, but the animal population has declined. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) first listed the Hawaiian Hoary Bat as endangered in 1970, partly due to the lack of information on the ecological needs of the animal. In 2015, it was officially designated the state land mammal since it is the only existing native land mammal in the Hawaiian Islands.
If you are looking for a safe yet memorable way to celebrate Hawaii’s diverse ecosystem and contribute to preserving its natural beauty, go on an adventure with Botanical World Adventures! Our world-class activities will take you through the Big Island’s stunning landscapes and allow you to see or interact with some of the archipelago’s most beloved and protected animals. Why wait, contact us or book a schedule today!