Mokapu rat eradication a milestone in protecting native species

Press Release from The Partnership to Protect Hawaii’s Native Species

The Partnership to Protect Hawaii’s Native Species (PPHNS) held a meeting at the Kulana ‘Oiwi Center in Kaunakakai to update the Molokai community on the results of a rat eradication project conducted approximately two years ago on the island of Mōkapu, an uninhabited island near the north shore of Molokai.

Rats on Mokapu have been successfully eradicated.

Mōkapu was selected for several reasons, including the evidence of the devastating effects rats have had on the native plants and birds on the island. Twenty-nine species of native plants were vulnerable to extinction from the island without the eradication efforts. Although over 50 islands around the world have used the aerial application of rodenticide to eradicate rodents, this was the first such project in which an island-wide aerial application was conducted with the milder rodenticide diphacinone. The members of the project team wanted to update the Molokai community and thank them for their support of the project.

Over the last two years, biologists have monitored the effects of the project and were pleased to report to the community that Mōkapu continues to be rat free since the application. More importantly, the native plants and birds have shown remarkable recovery due to the eradication of rats. Biologists will continue to monitor the native species on Mōkapu to document recovery following the rat eradication.

Because of the inaccessibility of Mōkapu and the acreage that needed treatment, the project team chose aerial application of pellets from a helicopter. A proven system – utilizing a Global Positioning System – was used to efficiently and accurately distribute the pellets throughout the island.

The eradication of rats from Mōkapu in February 2008 was a major step forward for island conservation in Hawaii. The long-term goal of the PPHNS is to prepare a statewide programmatic environmental document that will consider the various methods of rodent application from bait boxes to aerial application, as well as evaluate various rodenticides for conservation purposes. The Mōkapu project utilized diphacinone rodenticide pellets.

Diphacinone is an anti-coagulant historically prescribed as a blood thinner to treat a variety of medical conditions such as blood clots. It has been approved by the State of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to eradicate or control rodents for conservation purposes.

The Molokai presentation was also used to launch the Partnership to Protect Hawaii’s Native Species website, and community members who attended the meeting were the first to view it.

The site can be found at http://www.removeratsrestorehawaii.org.

The website is simple and easy to navigate and includes information for everyone, from those new to the project to scientists looking for project updates. It includes information about the effect of rodents on native species, cultural practices, agriculture, and human health.

At the meeting the project team expressed their appreciation to the community. Project participant Christy Martin of the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species at the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit (PCSU) said, “This project shows what can be done when government agencies charged with environmental protection and restoration work closely with a community. Native species on Mokapu are thriving because of the help we received from the native Hawaiian leaders, environmentalists and others in the Molokai community. We came back to share the story and relay our thanks.”

About the Partnership to Protect Hawaii’s Native Species
The Partnership to Protect Hawaii’s Native Species is a collaborative effort by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit at the University of Hawaii, and U.S. Army Environmental Center to control and eradicate invasive rodent species from the Hawaiian Islands.

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Molokai Mahina team competes on lunar surface

The Molokai Mahina Moonbots team, from left: 'Awa Yerhot, Erik Svetin (on knees), Alex Gilliland, Jenn Whitted (coach), Michael Kikukawa (behind sign) and Moriah Jenkins. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Svetin.


Phase one of MoonBots closes today and the Molokai Mahina team is right in the middle of this international competition.

So what the heck is MoonBots?

The MoonBots Challenge is a robotics competition involving 200 teams representing every continent in the world. The Lego Mindstorms Challenge sponsors several robotics competitions. This one simulates a lunar surface that must be navigated by the team using various scientific and engineering skills.

The Molokai robotics program began in October 2009 with the creation of the island’s first two robotics teams competing at First Lego League Maui in November 2009. The Maui Economic Development Board has been instrumental in supporting this program.

The Molokai Monarchs robotics team competed in the state championship at the Blaisdell Arena. From left, Momi Afelin, Puakea Domingo, Sarah Jenkins and Cendall Manley (Moriah Jenkins not pictured). Team coaches Heidi Jenkins and Melanie Goode not shown.


The Molokai team of five students ranges in age from 10 to 16 and is one of three Hawaii teams. Teams representing Jamaica, India, Australia, Bulgaria, Mexico, Colombia, Korea, Spain, Macedonia and Peru are also involved. The Molokai Mahina team is the only team to represent Maui County (Mahina is the Hawaiian word for moon). There is also one team from the Big Island and one from Kauai.

Members of Molokai Mahina are: Erik Svetin and ‘Awa Yerhot from Kaunakakai Elementary School, Alexandra Gilliland from Aka’ula School and Moriah Jenkins and Michael Kikukawa from Molokai High School. Jenn Whitted is the team’s “moon” teacher.

In a statement on the team’s blog (www.molokaimahina.blogspot.com), they said “We are enthusiastic about the opportunities this competition offers us regarding lunar exploration and the variety of ways we can utilize our mahina.”

The MoonBots Challenge is played on a lunar surface made from 48 by 48 module large gray Lego base plates and measuring 7.5 feet (2.2m) to a side. It is dominated by two large craters and a long ridge that bisects it. The teams must complete simulated lunar mission tasks during the competition, which ends Aug. 14.

Follow the Molokai Mahina team’s progress at http://www.moonbots.org/teams/molokai-mahina.

Molokai Clubhouse still in trouble

Special to The Molokai News

By Larry Geller

As you may recall, the Molokai Clubhouse, the only facility left standing on the island providing various support services to those with mental illness, was about to be closed down at the end of last year. The Lingle Administration, as part of its slash-and-burn budget reductions, had eliminated all the employees.

Those concerned readers who made phone calls along with advocates and supporters of the Clubhouse got the job reinstated on the very last day of the year.

According to the minutes of the State Council on Mental Health and reports from Maui advocates, the Molokai Clubhouse is in danger again, and it needs further intervention or it will shut down on June 30.

First, there is no money allocated for rent past June 30. All the good work and fundraising of the Honolulu Metro Rotary Club will go up in smoke if the facility gets kicked out.

Second, the one remaining employee is carrying a caseload of about 70, according to a report, and has many duties related to operating the Clubhouse and keeping it going. That’s too much even without the additional duties.

The state needs to hire back one social worker to divide the work. I hear about “dragging their heels” and other delays. With the unemployment situation as it is, there must be many candidates to choose from. Of course, I don’t know what the bureaucratic issue is, just that the cutbacks need to be reversed.

If you would like to intervene, I would suggest calling the Governor. Calling the Department of Health has historically not reversed any of their shutdown plans. For example, it took the intervention of Governor Cayetano to reverse the DOH decision many years back to close the Diamond Head Mental Health Center, a critical facility serving a large population in that area. So yes, go right to the top. 586-0034 will get you someone in the Governor’s office.

Of course, if you happen to be someone who has her personal cell phone number, please use that.

Planning Commission considers exemption for Mokio Point

Molokai Planning Commission preview

At today’s meeting of the Molokai Planning Commission, Butch Haase, executive director of the Molokai Land Trust, will request an exemption from a Special Management Area assessment for the 1,600-acre Mokio Point parcel that was given to the land trust by Molokai Ranch.

In August of 2009 the Molokai Land Trust initiated its access management plan for 1,600 acres of the Mokio Point / Puu Kaeo Lands in northwest Molokai. The Land Trust holds a 99-year lease to the land.

The application will ask the MoPC for an exemption in order to subdivide this parcel out of the original 4,815 acres. The land is valued at $2 million and was donated to the Molokai Land Trust for conservation and preservation within the State Agriculture and Conservation Districts.

Another SMA exemption has been requested by Stephanie Dunbar to remodel an existing 2,100 square-foot house and re-roof with minimal proposed expansion of the building. According to the application, the land in the area of Kainalu has already been extensively terraced in the past.

The commissioners will also review an emergency SMA permit that was issued to Gary Guardino for the emergency support and repair of two concrete foundation piers for a residence at 8900 Kamehameha V Highway in the Puko’o area.

The commission may also reschedule a report from the county Department of Water Supply concerning the department’s requirements for the Molokai Veterans Center project. A scheduling conflict will not allow the DWS to attend today’s MoPC meeting.

School year wraps up with graduation and promotions

Public schools finish the school year this week. The ceremony for the 81 Molokai High School class of 2010 graduates was held Saturday at the school gym. Jesse Lite was the senior class valedictorian. Lite, senior class president Chenoa Na’ilikea Ahuna-Kaai and Miss Hawaii 2009, Raeceen Woolford, all gave speeches to the packed crowd of about 800 at the Barn.

The seniors do have one more activity this year. The annual senior luau is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. in the gym. Parents can call Melody Alcon at 553-3443 to reserve tickets. Cost is $25 per ticket.

Today is a promotion ceremony for the sixth graders from Kualapu’u Elementary School beginning at 8:30 a.m. Aka’ula School will hold its promotion tomorrow for its eighth graders moving on to high school. The ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. at Kulana ‘Oiwi halau.

To celebrate Lahaina Noon today Kualapu’u School holds science exhibition

Priya , 9, and her sister, Thara, 15, lift their arms in the air to see the full effect of the solar phenomenon known locally as Lahaina Noon at Bishop Museum.

Today is Lahaina Noon, the day that the sun shines directly overhead. To celebrate this occasion, Kualapu’u Elementary School will hold a science exhibition today in the school cafeteria from 1-4 p.m.

The exhibition, for grades 2-6, will showcase student work on topics ranging from atomic structure, electricity, and magnetism, to cells, life stages, heat absorption/reflection and our solar system. The public is invited to attend.

Lahaina Noon means “cruel day” and was coined in 1990 by Bishop Museum. It is the day at which the sun reaches its highest point in the sky and outside observers witness the disappearance of shadows. Lahaina Noon occurs twice yearly in the central region of the earth on either side of the equator. This region, within which the island of Molokai falls, is called the tropics. The tropics extend from 23 ½ degrees N latitude to 23 ½ degrees S latitude with the equator situated directly in between at 0 degrees latitude.

As the earth makes its yearly revolution around the sun this region is brought into a direct line with the sun’s rays twice a year. Areas north and south of the tropics do not experience this event. These areas never receive direct sunlight. Instead, even on the longest summer day of the year, areas on the globe both north and south of the tropics only receive sunlight from an angle.

The reason for the changing orientation of the suns rays from 23 ½ degrees N latitude to 23 ½ degrees S latitude and then back again is due to the fact that the earth is tilted on its axis of rotation at an angle close to 23 ½ degrees. It is because of this tilt that the earth does not receive sun constantly on its centerline or equator.

Instead, the sun alternately shines directly on the northern tropics in summer when it is tilted toward the sun and on the southern tropics in winter when it is tilted away from the sun. In between, the sun makes its way southward and then northward again crossing our planet’s midline, the equator, on September 22 (Fall) and on March 20 (Spring).

The first Lahaina Noon Day of the year occurs for Molokai today at 12:24 p.m. The second “Lahaina Noon” day for Molokai occurs on Saturday, July 17, at 12:34 pm.

Water meeting on wellhead protection scheduled for tomorrow

Maui County Press Release

Two public meetings on the Wellhead Protection Project are scheduled for Molokai and Maui. The meeting on Molokai will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, May 25, at the Mitchell Pau’ole Community Center starting at 5:30 p.m.

The Department of Water Supply is holding meetings for public comments on the Wellhead Protection project and protection strategy throughout Maui County. The Department of Water Supply initiated the Wellhead Protection project to protect the wells that supply drinking water to our community. The land areas that could contribute water and
pollutants to the water supply have been delineated or mapped as “Wellhead Protection Areas.” In these areas, significant potential contaminating activities have been identified. If pollutants are spilled or discharged on the surface, they could filter through the soil to the ground water and be drawn into a particular well.

Drinking water wells can become contaminated by common activities such as pouring motor oil and household chemicals down drains, using too much pesticides and fertilizers, or illegal dumping. The meetings will provide the public with current information about potential contaminating activities in wellhead protection areas on Molokai and Maui and gather input on proposed protection strategies for existing and future wells.

The meeting agenda includes a presentation by the County of Maui Department of Water Supply about wellhead protection; a presentation by the University of Hawaii Department of Geology and Geophysics on “Modeling and Delineation of Source Protection Areas,” and open comments and discussion. Light refreshments will be provided. The Department of Water Supply Water Resources and Planning Division is hosting the meetings and can be reached at 244-8550.