Protecting rare native plants and their habitat from the destruction caused by large invasive animals such as pigs, deer and goats is a critical role for those that care for Caly and its neighbors. The herculean effort to build fences, maintain them and clear animals from these remote, dangerous terrain is nothing short of astounding.
Recently, unfortunately, pigs entered the fenced area protecting Caly and friends. In the short period these animals roamed within the fence, the damage done shows why keeping these invasive animals away from native forests is so important.
The pigs cleared and uprooted everything over a large steep area, also destabilizing the slopes above that harbor a wealth of native plants.
Caly herself was less than 2 feet away from this zone of destruction, possibly only saved by the fact it is on a steeper area compared to its surrounding.
In fact, some think that many native plants now considered to be cliff-dwelling species are simply remnant individuals that have survived the onslaught of invasive animals freely roaming their preferred habitat.
Pigs are known to seek and eat through the native hapu‘u tree ferns that dominate native Hawaiian forests. Around Caly, their thoroughness was impressive. Every single hapu‘u around Caly’s portion of the fenced area was destroyed.
In some cases, the hollowed out hapu'u could be seen with small pools of water that form perfect sites for mosquitos to lay their eggs. Tragically, pools created by pigs are thought to be one way avian malaria transmitted by mosquitoes has been able to thrive and eliminate native forest birds from many forests.
Thankfully, the pigs have now been removed from Caly’s fenced area. Their complex ecological web of impacts is a reminder of why maintaining fences and controlling these invasive animals is critical to the survival of so many native forests and their inhabitants.