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If you love animals, Hawaii is the place for you! There are countless opportunities on every island to observe animal life, including birds, insects, mammals, and fish. The oceans, streams, fields, forests, and mountains of Hawaii are bursting with animals of astounding variety. In fact, you can see animals when you swim, hike, walk, kayak, and even fly above the islands.
DIVERSITY AND ENDEMICISMAs an isolated archipelago, Hawaii boasts an incredible diversity of animal life. Some animals that are rare elsewhere occur here in abundance, and some animals that are abundant elsewhere are rare or non-existent here. In addition, a number of land animals are endemic, meaning that they occur here and nowhere else in the world. Examples include the state bird, the nene, a goose species related to the Canada goose.
ANIMALS ON OAHU
Each of the four main islands has great sites to catch a glimpse of some Hawaiian animals. On Oahu, if you go to Lyon Arboretum above Honolulu in the morning (bring bug repellent and rain gear), you will probably get to hear the beautiful song of the shama thrush, a non-native but nevertheless beautiful jungle bird.
ANIMALS ON KAUAI
On Kauai, you can often spot nene, the state bird of Hawaii, on the lawn of Kilohana Plantation (also a great place to have breakfast). The apapane bird, a small red native bird, can usually be spotted on the first mile or so of the Halemanu Trail in Kokee State Park on the western side of the island.
ANIMALS ON MAUI
In the summit area of Haleakala National Park on Maui you may be able to spot some nene. In the Hosmer Grove area nearby, you will be serenaded by a host of native and non-native bird species, especially if you go early in the morning. Snorkeling is great on Maui.
ANIMALS ON THE BIG ISLAND
Bird lovers will not want to miss Kipuku Puaulu in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. This area is commonly known as "bird park," and for good reason. If you walk the 1-mile easy loop trail early in the morning, you will almost certainly see (and hear) hundreds of birds of many different species. The ground-dwelling birds are particularly fascinating here. Very few visitors seem to know or care about this special area of the park - ask about it at the visitor center.
FUTURE CHALLENGES: MANAGING NON-NATIVE SPECIESThe influence of humans is apparent throughout the animal population of Hawaii. Originally, Hawaii lacked mosquitoes, but to the dismay of future generations of travelers mosquitoes hitchhiked over on shipping vessels in the early 1800s. On Oahu, the Big Island, and Maui, mongoose run rampant. They were originally brought in to control rats in the sugar cane fields, but instead they have decimated native bird populations. The native bird species, lacking natural predators, laid their eggs in simple nests on the ground. On Kauai, which lacks mongoose, wild jungle fowl called moa still thrive, but even these are an import from the earliest polynesian settlers.
One of the great challenges facing naturalists in Hawaii today is the management of introduced species. Hawaii still has no snakes, a fact that is brought home to you when they search your luggage for any contraband pets. Hawaiians are trying to protect the precious native bird species that remain.
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