Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge


An Amakihi at Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge
An Amakihi at Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge
Another endangered bird at Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge

Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge is a 5,300-acre property located about 23 miles south of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. That puts the property on the western slopes of Mauna Loa in a zone where native forest is almost gone. In contrast to the northeast side of the island, it's the lower slopes that incoming settlers cleared the forest on to try to establish their farms and ranches. Above 3,500 feet, the abandoned pastureland disappears into a mature native forest.

The primary reason for establishing Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge was to preserve and protect the native forest for many threatened and endangered native species. Of special concern was a small bird (the 'alala) that became extinct in the wild in 2004. About 50 of the birds are still alive in a couple of bird conservation centers on Maui and Hawaii and the plan is to finish fencing and prepping the land, remove the non-native predators and feral livestock and release some of those birds back into the wild. There are other endangered species of birds, plants and insects that live on this property, too. Because of that presence, Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge is closed to the public.

An Apapane at Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge
An Apapane at Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge