Keith and the English Nēnē

Keith and the English Nēnē

Aloha, my name is Keith, and I am on the HPPA team at two of our Haleakalā National Park store locations, on the island of Maui. I learned about the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in our training at Haleakalā National Park about the history of the park captive nēnē breeding program.

The staff were absolutely ecstatic about the Makana the Nēnē Plush I brought for them. They want to add Makana to their store as they have many plush toys. I also took our Kahoʻokele Petrel Plush and shared our remarkable story of success on Maui, especially since they lay only one egg a season. I took national park brochures and HPPA membership brochures with me, along with chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.

The park is divided into various regions: i.e. North America, South Africa, South America, Arctic, Asia, and the birds of those regions return to their specific habitats although they are able to fly freely through the entire wetlands.  To see geese flying towards Slimbridge from the outside English Countryside is magical. I brought someone with me who was amazed, and connected with all the conservation work that Sir Peter Scott developed to create habitats for birds that are not caged - truly amazing.

Everyone there was sympathetic to our challenges with the fire on Maui. I shared with them photos of our Upcountry fires and appreciated His Royal Highness King Charles III's acknowledgment of our plight, and the prayers of the British people.

We spoke at length about the nēnē rehabilitation habitat at Haleakalā National Park, which is isolated from human contact. The success of saving a family that now frequents the park headquarters visitor center was remarkable. We talked about the gentle character of the nēnē, how they don't spend much time in the lake at Slimbridge as they are primarily land birds and sometimes they even go on the road for heat.

I also mentioned that they are smart. They can differentiate people's faces, and for them (the staff) to take note! I saw the small flock fly to their habitat just before the noon feeding, and they went into the bushes at the end of their feeding time. When I was there in 2003 I was able to feed them grain, but I'm glad they switched to lettuce during the highly publicized feeding time at their habitat.

In 2003, I was still with the hotel industry and just stumbled upon the place. Many great changes have occurred since then, and I loved having my frozen clotted cream at their restaurant again! I returned in 2010 when a Haleakalā park ranger reminded me of the place. I meant to return sooner, but my family and friends weren't interested. My girlfriend is quite open to new experiences, so I finally had my chance recently. I received my Slimbridge newsletter in 2020 with the news about their new habitat and made it a priority. The nēnē are their number one attraction, and I was proud to have a Hawaiʻi-specific habitat that was not grouped with North America. My girlfriend had never really seen a nēnē until Slimbridge. She was intrigued by the bird hides for viewing wildlife, taking us into five different hides and two observation towers.

For students, one of the greatest lessons is that healthy, ecologically functioning habitats for various animals are so important. If we do not take care of our natural lands and features, our unique species will be affected. Again, the bird species at Slimbridge are free to fly away, but they return to their familiar habitats.

The reason I return to England is to discover more about the culture and how it influenced Hawaiʻi. For instance you'll also see "Kalakaua Rex" signed on Hawaiian documents, where "Rex" means "king" in Latin.

I was trying to see if we still have active nēnē at Haleakalā National Park that came from Slimbridge, as they have a special leg band, but couldn't get a definitive answer. Hawaiian Airlines' Hana Hou magazine had an article about Sir Peter Scott and nēnē in 2008.Link:

The talk I gave on my Slimbridge visit when I got back to Hawaiʻi was attended by quite a few Brits who had never heard of it, and they had the most questions. I think we should get our ED (Executive Director) over there, as HPPA (formerly HNHA) helped fund the captive breeding program!

Side note: I ran out of time and could not make it to the Royal Gardens at Kew. In 2013, Pat Biley of Hawaiʻi TNC (The Nature Conservancy) asked me if I was willing to take native hapu'u ferns from Maui to the Kew Research Center in England. Of course I agreed. About a month before my trip, he called to say they were not able to harvest any hapu'u ferns due to an introduced ant infestation. I offered some from my home, and Pat saw that they were ant-free, so he harvested them and I took them to Kew. Last year, I ran into Pat, and he said that the ferns are growing well. I had planned to see them in the Temperate House of the Gardens on this trip, but ran out of time. The fern had graced the front cover of Kew's 2014 annual report.

Makana the Nēnē Plush is here:

The story of nēnē at Haleakalā National Park is here:

Learn about Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust here:



Hawaii Pacific Parks Association Location Map
Hawaiʻi Pacific Parks Association. P.O. Box 74 Hawaii National Park, 96718 HI