Nature lovers planning a vacation in Hawaii will want to visit the Hakalau Forest Wildlife Nature Reserve. The reserve covers the 33,000 acre Hakalua Forest along with 5,300 acres of the Kona Forest. In addition to the enormous variety of plants and animals that inhabit the forests, they support 1 endangered bat species, 9 endangered bird species and more than 20 endangered plants.
The reserve was established in 1985 solely for the purpose of conserving forest birds, particularly those in danger of extinction. Through a series of habitat and wildlife management programs the reserve is focused on preserving the ecosystem and reversing population decline.
In the 1700’s the forests became a grazing ground for feral pigs and cattle which over time has contributed to the destruction of the native forest habitat required to support the forest birds. Predators like mongooses, rats and cats, along with invasive weeds which overtake the life supporting ecosystem have all contributed to the decline. By removing the grazers and controlling the predators and foreign plant matter, the reserve is slowly working towards preventing the extinction of rare species like the Hammerhead (aki pola’au), the Hawaiian Creeper (‘akepa), and the Hawaiian Hawk (i’o).
The reserve supports the some of the most incredible remaining stands of montane rainforests in Hawaii. The upper Malau unit has a public access program which allows visitors to hike through the forest and provides an excellent opportunity for wildlife photography.
Visitors can reach the public access section via the Saddle Road /Highway 200. Go north on the paved Mauna Kea Summit Road for approximately two miles the turn right onto Keanakolu / Mana Road and proceed approximately 16.5 miles to the Maulua Gate. In order to visit the refuge, visitors must call to book an appointment a week ahead of their planned visit. The office will provide a combination allowing you to enter and exit through the gate. Click here for more information: http://www.recreation.gov/recAreaDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&recAreaId=1414&agencyCode=70906
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