15 Hawaiian Plants and Animals Gain Endangered Species Act Protection

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

15 Hawaiian Plants and Animals Gain Endangered Species Act Protection

HONOLULU - Following an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected 15 species on the island of Hawaii today under the Endangered Species Act. Thirteen plants, a picture-wing fly and an ultra-rare “anchialine” pool shrimp gained final protection as the result of a 2011 agreement to speed protection decisions for 757 imperiled plants and animals from across the country.

“Part of Hawaii’s beauty is the amazing diversity of life unique to the Aloha state. Endangered Species Act protection will keep these magnificent plants and animals safe for generations to come,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center.

The 13 plants being protected include sunflowers, asters and trees with such sonorous names as kookoolau, haha, aku, haiwale and uhiuhi. They are threatened by habitat loss, agriculture, urban development, feral pigs and goats, invasive plants, wildfire, hurricanes and drought. Four of the plants have been identified as the “rarest of the rare” by the Plant Extinction Prevention Program. They each have fewer than 50 individuals surviving in the wild and are in need of immediate action to conserve them.

The anchialine pool shrimp lives only on the Big Island and nowhere else in the world; only five individuals of the species have ever been seen. Anchialine pools are land-locked bodies of water that have underground connections to the sea and show tidal fluctuations in water level. The pool shrimp is threatened by degraded water quality due to siltation, which harms the algae, bacteria and small invertebrates it feeds on. Its body is two inches long; it has two-inch antennae and eyestalks, but no eyes. One of the most primitive shrimp species in the world, this intriguing animal can only swim forward, whereas most shrimp can also swim backward.

The picture-wing fly was discovered in 1968. Adults are less than a quarter-inch in length and have brownish-yellow bodies, yellow legs and shiny, clear wings with prominent brown spots. They are dependent on one specific host plant to reproduce, laying their eggs only on decaying stems of Charpentiera plants. Adults live for one to two months. Historically there were five known sites for the fly, but today it survives in only two places — the Manuka Natural Area Reserve and the Olaa Forest Reserve. The fly is threatened by forces that harm its host plant, including browsing by goats, pigs and cattle; invasive plants; fire; drought; and hurricanes. It is also threatened by predation from non-native wasps. 

The Service is expected to publish a rule protecting critical habitat for the species in the near future.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has made excellent progress in addressing the long backlog of plants and animals facing extinction,” said Curry. “Now Congress needs to designate sufficient funding for recovery to make sure these endangered species get what they need to thrive.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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