(re)Establishing Pilina: Understanding the Relationship Between Communities and 'Alae 'Ula

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Climate change is expected to decrease current habitat for the endangered ‘alae ‘ula (Hawaiian Gallinule; Gallinula galeata sandvicensis) in coastal wetlands by at least 40%. However, the pae ‘āina (main 8 Hawaiian Islands) is experiencing a revitalization of Indigenous agro-ecological practices of loʻi (flooded agriculture) and loko i‘a (fishponds), which historically expanded wetland habitat, and thus has the potential to expand habitat for the ‘alae ‘ula. Under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), human interactions with endangered species are restricted due to the possible negative effects of human disturbance on behavior. Thus, farming practices may be impacted when ‘alae ‘ula nest in loʻi. If these interactions do result in nest abandonment or other impacts to nesting success, then the restrictions imposed on farmers under the ESA are necessary to help recover the species. However, recent observations suggest ‘alae ‘ula may recognize individual farmers with whom they regularly interact in loʻi, and furthermore, that reproductive success is not impacted by interactions with these farmers with whom they have formed relationships.

The objective of this study is to understand the pilina, or relationship, between ʻalae ʻula and kalo farmers. We will determine: (1) whether ʻalae ʻula are able to identify individual humans;(2) the baseline kinship that farmers believe they have with ʻalae ʻula that inhabit their loʻi.