HILO, Hawaii – An endemic, endangered bird species on Hawaii Island was celebrated at a festival held at the Imiloa Atronomy center this weekend.
Palila Palooza – a day long family event featuring free entertainment, keiki crafts, and guest speakers – raised awareness about projects intended to protect Mauna Kea’s remote high-elevation dry forest and its most famous inhabitant, the palila bird.
The front lawn of the Center was adorned with various information booths, and it was also where we spoke to Robert Stephens, the project coordinator for the Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project, one of the collaborators in organizing the event.
Another collaborator was the Hawaiʻi Nei Art Contest – which displayed works in the Center’s main hallway. The event also featured a special screening of the palila film, “Struggle for Existence,” by former Hilo resident, Laurie Sumiye Filiak.
The event illustrated the love Hawaii has for its palila. Yet, while almost everyone agrees the bird should be preserved, the island remains divided over the best way to do that. The state’s ariel shooting of goats and sheep is part of a federal court order to protect the palili from the mamane munching ungulates. Last year, the Hawaii County Council voted to ban the helicopter hunts, largely at the urging of the local hunting community who oppose what they see as the waste of a game resource.
The DLNR has long maintained that they have no choice but to carry out the helicopter hunts. In this video, Stephens explained the legal history. This year, a federal court essentially over ruled the county’s ban on the ariel hunts – at least as far as the palila habitat is concerned.
But even with the DLNR’s efforts, the outlook is bleak for the little honeycreeper. Population numbers continue to trend down. Stephens hopes that an event like Palila Palooza will help.