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National Wildlife Refuge

Milepost 6, Mokulele Hwy (Hwy 311)
Kihei, HI   96753 - 1042
E-mail: Courtney_ Brown@fws.gov
Phone Number: 808-875-1582
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Kakahaia National Wildlife Refuge

Kakahaia Refuge is a coastal freshwater pond, originally used as an artificial fish pond. This 44-acre refuge is situated on the south coast of Moloka'i. Established in 1977, it provides habitat for the endangered 'alae ke'oke'o (Hawaiian coot) and small numbers of 'ae'o (Hawaiian stilt), migratory waterfowl, and shorebirds.

Northern pintails are common in winter months; and the Pacific golden plover is the most common shorebird. The native black-crowned night heron feeds on fish and other small vertebrates along the shoreline.

Kakahaia is primarily a natural, spring-fed habitat. However, in 1983, an additional impoundment was constructed to increase shallow water habitat for the endangered stilt. In 1998 and 1999, this "New Pond" was cleared of invasive plants to open up habitat for the endangered stilt and coot, as well as wintering birds. State Route 450 bisects the refuge. The 2 acres seaward of the highway are under special use permit to the County of Maui for use as a county park open to picnicking and shoreline fishing.

Getting There . . .
Kakahaia Refuge is located along the coastal road (Highway 450) linking the island's southeast coast with the airport in Kaunakakai. The refuge is located directly seaward of the Kawela subdivision and is about 5 miles from Kaunakakai.

As a satellite refuge, Kakahaia is not open to the public except by Special Use Permit; however, parking, picnic tables, and shade trees are located on the ocean side of the road. This park area is open year round.

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Wildlife and Habitat

This refuge contains a 15-acre pond and a manmade 7-acre impoundment. Surrounding two sides of the old pond are thick kiawe trees. The spring-fed pond lies on a narrow plain just above sea level at the foot of volcanic hills.

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The refuge is closed to the public.

Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
At Kakahaia, as in other Hawaiian wetland refuges, control of exotic plants is a year-round battle. Over 90 percent of the plants you see here are aggressive introduced species such as Indian marsh fleabane and California bulrush. Native plants have become scarce. Without human intervention, these exotic plants quickly choke open water and mud flats, a situation seen throughout the Islands.

This has had a direct impact on wildlife. At the turn of the twentieth century, about 40,000 ducks wintered in Hawaiian wetlands; today that number is around 2,000. Four of the five native water birds are now classified as endangered. Introduced animals have also affected native Hawaiian wildlife. Cattle egrets compete with native birds for food, and may eat their chicks.

Mongooses, rats, cats, and dogs eat ground-nesting birds, and their eggs and young. Predator control is an ongoing effort at Kakahaia. Controlling water levels is another vital aspect of habitat management, particularly during the nesting season. With too much water, nests can be flooded, or the water is too deep for chicks to forage; too little water, and hatchlings will have to travel too far to find food.

Planned flooding and draining also helps keep alien plants from growing in areas needed by birds. Staff from the Maui Refuge Complex fly over Kakahaia on a monthly basis to conduct water bird population and nesting surveys, invasive vegetation control, water level monitoring, and adjustment of fresh water flow rates for maintenance of optimum water bird habitat.

Water levels are maintained via pumping of ground water sources. The public use area, located along the shoreline, is maintained by the County of Maui through a cooperative agreement. The refuge is responsible for maintaining fences and keeping the right-of-ways clear.