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Lehua Island
Lehua Island is an important sanctuary for seabirds in the Tropical Pacific.
Lehua Island, Hawaii is located 3/4 of a mile north of Niihau and about 19 miles west of Kauai. It is a 111 hectare, crescent-shaped, uninhabited island administered by the U.S. Coast Guard and managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources as a State Seabird Sanctuary. It is home to 17 species of seabirds, 26 species of native plants, and 5 native insects.

 

Lehua is a volcanic island that has been sculpted by marine erosion and is dominated by grasslands and herblands. The south side of the island is characterized by steep sea cliffs notched with sea caves at the water’s edge. The cliffs taper off to low-lying points that border a wide-mouthed bay opening to the north. Steeper regions of Lehua are rather depauperate in vegetation, with only occasional plants clinging to small soil pockets in the cracks of barren tuff. Along with rabbits, strong winds and extremely arid conditions have worked to keep the vegetation to a minimum.

 

Island Conservation’s Role:

 

Nesting Laysan and Black-footed Albatross, Brown and Red-footed Boobies, and the endangered Newell's Shearwater are all native to Lehua Island. In addition to seabirds, migratory shorebirds also utilize the island's habitat. Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals have been seen in the waters around Lehua and will occasionally haul out on Lehua's rock ledges.

 

Non-native rats are also present on the island. Rats directly impact seabirds through predation. They are known to have eliminated many seabird species from islands around the world. They also feed on native plants and insects, and can suppress or eliminate many of these species as well. In addition, non-native rabbits were introduced to Lehua during or before the 1930s. Rabbits decimate the vegetation and even compete with seabirds for use of burrows on islands.

 

Island Conservation began removing rabbits from Lehua in 2005, and successfully completed the project the following year. In December of 2006, the island was declared rabbit free. Since the removal of the rabbits, seabirds no longer have to fight for their burrows and Red-Footed Boobies are finding an increased number of shrubs to nest in. The US Fish and Wildlife service plans to remove the rats in the future. 

Brown Booby with chick on Lehua Island
Lehua Island

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