The word Hawai’i sags with
the weight of the countless images we pile upon it – palm-lined beaches glinting
white in the sun, sticky-hot tropical forests swirling with steam, impossibly
high sea cliffs spilling waterfall after waterfall into the Pacific. Birds of
paradise. Lakes of lava. And everywhere the sky and sea a shocking blue.
These images are the outward
appearances of a place that is not only devastating in its beauty, but also in
Most people are surprised to learn
how climatically diverse Hawai'i is. The earth has a total 13 climate zones, each with
unique ecosystems and weather characteristics, and 11 of them exist on Hawai'i.
Factors like elevation, topography, rainfall and prevailing winds come together
to create a wide array of microclimates that range from tropic to sub-Arctic
throughout the islands. Some of Hawai’i’s mountains, like Mauna Kea, climb out of the rainforest
and into the dry continental conditions you'd find in the high country of Colorado, Wyoming or Montana.
It is one of the most isolated island
chains in the world, imposing a natural quarantine of more than 2,000 miles of open ocean.
Any plants or animals that arrived on their own, carried on wind or water,
evolved in spectacular fashion over the millennia into incredibly unique
species found nowhere else on Earth. With no large plant-eating mammals, many plant
species let their guards down. Nettles became nettle-less, mints, mint-less. Entire
ecosystems evolved without a single defense mechanism, making Hawai’i’s plants and animals extremely vulnerable
to the aggressive ways of man and the thousands of alien species that came with
him. Noxious weeds and hungry ungulates wreaked havoc on native ecosystems, and
in an evolutionary blink of an eye, Hawai'i became the endangered species
capital of the world, with more endangered species per square mile than
anywhere else on the planet.
Of the numerous invasive species on the islands of
Hawai’i, Axis Deer have had perhaps the greatest impact. Native to India, three Axis Deer bucks and four does were gifted to King Kamehameha
V in 1867, which he released on his grounds on Moloka'i,
a tiny island only 27 miles long and 11 miles wide. With no predators,
unlimited feed, and perfect weather, within 20 years they numbered 1,000. By
1901 deer populations topped 7,000, prompting the first human intervention – a yearlong
culling operation. Fast-forward to present day Moloka'i, and there are now more than
65,000 deer, a staggering number when you consider that the island is
home to only 7,300 people. Axis deer now exist on the islands of Maui, Lana'i
and were recently illegally introduced to the island of Hawai'i.
The goal of the Axis Deer Institute
(ADI) is to help determine and maintain the carrying capacity of this species
through research and control. ADI has become both the apex predator and
the wildlife biologist in this unprecedented endeavor, working to ensure that
axis deer are the gift they were intended to be, rather than a burden to the
people and the land.
ADI is a research institute that leads and assists in a number of projects statewide. At our home office on Moloka'i we are conducting population assessments and behavioral research, on Maui we are working with a harvesting cooperative to determine the feasibility of using Axis Deer for a venison market, and on the Big Island we are working with partner agencies to remove the illegally introduced deer from the island.
A year ago, we tried Sitka Gear
and were genuinely surprised with the results. It allows us to get closer to the animals than any other concealment.
The layering system helps us battle through 6 or 7 climate zones in a single
day, and sometimes we even sleep in it at night.
For us, it’s not just gear, it’s a