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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park receives grant for turtle work

August 4, 2014 - 4:01pm

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of 23 national parks recipients of a 2014 Impact Grant from the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks.

The $19,200 grant will assist park efforts to protect the federally endangered hawksbill turtle, known as the honuea in Hawaiian, by supporting park volunteers who monitor nesting beaches, rescue distressed females, eggs and hatchlings, improve habitat, and provide information to beachgoers along the southern coast of Hawaii Island, park officials said Monday.

Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said highlights of this season include documenting 10 honuea — six returnees and four newly tagged. One of the returning females was last documented on Hawaii Island in 2005. Volunteers confirmed 21 nests at four beaches, including two within the national park.

Loss of nesting habitat caused by beach erosion and invasive plants threatens the future of the honuea on the southern coast of Hawaii Island. Student biologists and individuals from the community will assist as volunteers and remove invasive woody plants such as koa haole that are encroaching on to beaches, as well as relocate nests to prevent damage to fragile eggs from high surf and overcrowding. While monitoring turtle activity, volunteers assist stranded females and hatchlings, and provide on-site information of park recovery efforts to beachgoers.

“The honuea is a much beloved turtle in Hawaii and it would be tragic to see this animal disappear from our shores. We’re very excited to work with the National Park Foundation to restore nesting habitat. In addition to helping to protect the turtle, we’ll also be providing valuable training and experience to students interested in pursuing careers in conservation biology,” said Rhonda Loh, natural resources management chief for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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