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Flora and Fauna

Considering that the Hawaiian Islands rose from the sea floor by successive volcanic eruptions where did the plants and animals come from? These islands are among the most isolated on the planet, 2000 miles from any continent.

Many spores, seeds and even insects were scooped up by the wind and carried in the jet stream from Asia before falling back onto the islands. Some plants arrived via flotsam on ocean currents or the wing of birds. Plants, which gained a foothold, thrived in conditions perfect for life. Evolving without predators these plants lost thorns, poisons and other needed defenses. Today, there are over two thousand species of plants, which are found nowhere else on earth but the Hawaiian Islands. Introduced plant species have replaced native species in many areas of Hawaii and some pose a significant threat to the remaining native ecosystem.

Before man first arrived on the Hawaiian Islands, around 1500 years ago, the only land animals were birds, insects and the Hawaiian Monk seal. Like the plants these animals evolved into many unique species found nowhere else on earth. At least one flightless bird was hunted to extinction by the first human colonizers. By the time of Captain Cook's arrival in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 there existed at least 71 endemic species and subspecies of Hawaiian birds. Today, over 50% of the native Hawaiian bird species are extinct and many of the others are now endangered. A number of reasons account for this decline. Introduced bird species, such as the Mina from India carry avian malaria. Mosquitoes are the vectors between these introduced species and native species with no immunity. The native birds that survive generally inhabit elevations above 4000 feet MSL where few mosquitoes live. Other introduced species such as mongoose and feral house cats also prey upon the nests of these birds.

Hawaiians brought a small black pig that later crossed with the larger European pig, resulting in a large tusked feral animal that does extensive damage to the rainforest. Year round hunting is encouraged to help reduce populations of these destructive alien species. Feral goats are also common on almost every island as are Axis deer, which were imported to provide more game for hunters.

In spite of the ecological challenges the vast majority of land in these islands remains wild and uninhabited. Video clips of this remote and spectacular scenery are available at, and at