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Letters for Sunday, November 14, 2021

Public payphones idea

A week ago, I wrote about wanting to bring back public payphone booths, due to the fact that not everyone has a cell phone.

With today’s modern technologies, why not post public payphone booths at certain bus stops? Equip the booth with a solo/battery run ceiling camera and a credit/debit card reader to make a call (there will be no money involved).

Is this something that Hawaiian Telcom, Verizon, AT&T, etc. can look into?

Howard Tolbe, ‘Ele‘ele

The Unsung Heroes of Kokeʻe

Our forest birds are disappearing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently declared eight Hawaiian forest bird species extinct, three of them from Kauaʻi. And only a few days ago the Wildlife Service announced that it would finally propose a plan to protect the threatened ʻiʻiwi, our most iconic forest bird. It is among eight forest bird species on Kauaʻi that can still be saved, some of whom we still see in the misty forests, such as the ʻapapane, ʻamakihi, and the ever-curious ʻelepaio.

These birds are still sometimes heard in the ʻohia forests of Kokeʻe and the ʻAlakaʻi plateau, but an eerie silence is beginning to creep into the ridges, ravines and valleys of our high mountain forests. Our forest birds are becoming fewer and fewer, and their songs are now rarely heard where they were once common. Much has to do with the loss of native forest habitat and introduced predators, but in recent years a new killer has arrived in our mountains, and itʻs a very small one: the southern house mosquito. It transmits avian malaria, a disease most forest birds have no defense against, and it is an effective killer.

Some of our most critically endangered forest birds such as the ʻakikiki and ʻakekeʻe have now retreated to the highest ground on our island and have nowhere else to go. It is in these remote forests, where they are making their last stand against the deadly invasion of the blood-sucking insects. These little birds are the unsung heroes of Kokeʻe, as they quietly fight for survival against all odds, and as they fight for a small patch of forest to call their home and live in peace. Only a few hundred of them remain, and their populations continue to decline. Thatʻs why our forest birds need our help.

The Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project has been helping our threatened and endangered native forest birds for over 15 years. Their latest efforts focus on fighting this invasion of mosquitoes that bring deadly diseases to our birds. The tireless team members are the other unsung heroes of Kokeʻe. They clamber through thick undergrowth across ravines and gulches to help our endangered birds and find effective ways to beat back the advancing mosquito invasion. Some of the less technical work includes hiking on trails and forest roads to find and treat puddles that have mosquito larvae, work that is fun and also easily done by volunteers. Field technician Allie Cabrera envisions a ‘squad’ of hiking volunteers helping out with these easy but time-consuming tasks. Her ‘squad’ is still very small at this point, but I am hopeful that more volunteers will join to help our embattled forest birds, so that perhaps one day our mauka forests will once again echo with the rich songs of abundant native birds.

Contact the Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project for more information about how you can help: kauaiforestbirds.org; info@kauaiforestbirds.org.

Volker Poelzl, Kapa‘a
Source: The Garden Island

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