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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 22, 2010

Get clued in on endangered Hawaii species

By Maureen O'Connell

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Most endangered cheetahs are found in Africa.

BRYAN THOMPSON | Honolulu Zoological Society

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Sumatran tiger, found only on Indonesia's Sumatra island, is listed as a critically endangered species.

DYANNA OKAZAKI | Honolulu Zoological Society

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Deforestation is ruining the endangered ruffed lemur's Madagascar habitat.

BRYAN THOMPSON | Honolulu Zoological Society

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Learn more about our wildlife preservation efforts, both local and international, and celebrate ongoing recovery efforts at today's Hawaiian Endangered Species Celebration, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Honolulu Zoo, organized by the Hawai'i Conservation Alliance and the Honolulu Zoological Society, with talks by wildlife experts, exhibits, information about volunteer opportunities, games and crafts; $3 to $12; 971-7171.

Children will be invited to make masks representing various endangered species to wear in a "parade of species."

Loyal Mehrhoff, Pacific islands field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will detail some of the state's 377 endangered specie listings and point to both local and global success stories. In Hawai'i, those range from the nene (Hawaiian goose) and kohola (humpback whale) to the Mauna Loa silversword plant.

Hawai'i leads the nation in endangered species listings 58 animals and 319 plants. California follows with 302 total listings, and Florida with 108. Every other state's listings top out in double and single digits.

Deanna Spooner, the Hawai'i Conservation Alliance's executive director, said two reasons loom large for Hawai'i's dubious distinction under the 1973 Endangered Species Act: isolation and pests.

Because the Islands are made up of relatively small land masses, "if you end up losing habitat for a species or if a species gets struck with a disease, then you can easily endanger them," Spooner said.

Also, over the last several decades, stepped-up cargo shipping and air travel to far-flung Hawai'i have delivered more alien invasive species.

"We've really had this alien invasion," Spooner said. "Not only do these pests compete for food and shelter ... they also bring diseases." For example, mosquitos carrying avian malaria pose a major threat to native birds.