Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Lehua Island restored to the birds; Rats appear to be gone

Shipwreck remains on Niihau beach, with Lehua in background.
The `iwa or great frigatebird swept low over a cluster of trucks, stacks of equipment and a Jet Ranger helicopter on the northern end of Ni`ihau.

As I followed its black-winged form with binoculars, the angular bird made several passes and then returned to its roost on Lehua Island, a gray-brown tuff cone island, just a thousand yards across the Kumukahi Channel from Ni`ihau.

Teams of wildlife professionals worked both Ni`ihau and Lehua in late August and early last month,  using a helicopter guided by computer mapping programs to deliver rat bait across the rugged islet. I was present for one of the sessions.

A month after the final application, indications are that rats no longer populate Lehua, although a final determination of rat presence will be made a year from now, which any survivors--if they exist--will have had a chance to reproduce and make their presence known.

For now, survey teams are finding no footprints at burrows or other indications of rat activity, according to Sheri Mann, head of the Kaua`i office of the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife. They will keep monitoring for the next year, to confirm that preliminary finding.

The Lehua Island rat eradication project should improve habitat for frigatebirds and dozens of other bird and plant species on the little island—just as wildlife has thrived after similar eradications at other offshore Hawaiian islands, like Mokoli`i Island off O`ahu and Mokapu off north Molokai.

After eradication of black rats on Mokoli`i, successful shearwater nesting became common, coastal naupaka sprouted, and seashore rat-predated species like pipipi and `a`ama crab became abundant.
At Palmyra Atoll to the south of Hawai`i, after rat removal long-absent seabird species established successful nests, shoreline fiddler crabs thrived, and native tree seeds sprouted where they once were eaten.

Lehua has now been given three applications a pale blue pellets of rat bait containing diphacinone—less than a pound of the anticoagulant in several thousand pounds of food grade cereals like wheat and oats and other rat-friendly food items. The new bait was developed by Bell Laboratories in Madison, Wisconsin.

“We’ve had really high acceptance rates of this new, more palatable bait,” said Gregg Howald, North America regional director for Island Conservation, the non-profit that conducts invasive species eradication efforts on islands around the world, in association with partners and landowners.

The Lehua operation’s partners include the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife and its parent agency the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research Center in Hilo, Niihau Ranch, U.S. Coast Guard, National Tropical Botanical Garden and several other associated organizations and agencies.

The $1 million Lehua project has funding from several sources, including the Department of Land and Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Island Conservation. The results will be monitored for several years.

Several hundred small islands from the equator to the arctic have now been cleared of rats and other invasives. Why islands? Because although their land area is small, they are important crucibles of biological diversity--home to many endangered species, and once home to many species now extinct.

Through my binoculars, I could see the white, brown and black forms of petrels, great frigatebirds, boobies, noddies and other bird species, wheeling on the thermals above Lehua’s sloping spine.

One species, the tiny band-rumped storm petrel, is now entirely missing—arguably because its small size and noisy habits on the nest make it particularly vulnerable to rats, said Nick Holmes, Island Conservation’s Director of Science.

Perhaps on a rat-free Lehua, it will be able to re-establish itself.

Meanwhile, planning in Hawai`i is already underway for a much bigger challenge—clearing the island of Kaho`olawe of species like mice that are inhibiting the island’s revegetation. The Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission is in discussion with Island Conservation and others about the best ways to accomplish that goal.

© 2017 Jan W. TenBruggencate 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Want to lose weight? Go with your gut, or your mom, but not the internet.

You need to lose a little weight, so you go to the internet for solutions, right?


Asking the internet for advice is like asking random people for technical help, except that the internet is also populated with an oversupply of trolls who rejoice in misleading you, along with a whole lot of hucksters trying to sell you things that may or may not help.

I came across a news report that suggested the body’s natural messenger to prevent overeating is a hormone called leptin. So, how do you increase leptin and decrease your appetite?

I went online.

Oh my, the lies, the errors, the active commerce, and the answers from people who know less than you do. 

Here’s Wikihow, which has a long list of tips, including that you should eat protein for breakfast, and definitely not cereal, because after all, cereal is “full of lectin, which actually binds to your leptin receptors, keeping leptin from being able to do its job.”

Of course, then you go to Livestrong.com and the first recommendation is to eat plenty of cereal with fruit, because of the fiber: “Fiber gives you a feeling of fullness, causing your intestinal tract to send a signal to your brain to release more leptin.” 

Some sites say get lots of sleep, because if you don’t sleep your leptin levels drop and you eat.

This guy says it’s all about diet. 

These paleo diet folks say it’s all about diet and lifestyle. They’ll sell you a daily diet program.

These guys will sell you a different diet program to help you “master your metabolism.” All you need to do is buy their book. They’ll also sell you dietary supplements like collagen protein, and “performance coffee”, which cost more than the book.

There are lots of websites that talk about secret foods you must never eat. And others that talk about supplements you must use—and particularly the high quality supplements available exclusively through their particular firms.

I appreciate Healthline for telling you what you already knew. They key to health and weight is no secret: Eat more protein, fewer carbs, more fiber, avoid processed food, sleep better, exercise

Wow. Forget about leptin. Eat right, sleep well and stay fit. You didn’t need the internet for that. Your mom could have handled the job.

© 2017 Jan W. TenBruggencate