Monday, July 13, 2009

Show Honu Aloha

Aloha means hello in hawaiian, but it is has another broader meaning of extending goodwill to the person you are saying it to. Honu is the hawaiian name for turtle and this is a little story of how I learned about showing aloha to the honu.

A few weeks ago, we ventured towards the North Shore and we wanted to go to a different beach than the one at Haleiwa, so we drove just a little north and saw some folks parked on the right side of the road. We stopped to see why and initially couldn’t figure out where they were going. We crossed the street, which looked like a drop off and low and behold was a little rocky beach called Laniakea.
Laniakea Beach

We made our way down to the beach and discovered this “little” guy, a beautiful green sea turtle. He was just laying in the warm sand soaking up the last of the afternoon sun. Someone had roped off an area around him with a red rope and put a laminated sign up asking us all to keep away.


So I took a few shots of him and noticed a whiteboard in the sand which said his name was Genbu. This intrigued me because I began to realize that the someone who cared enough to put the rope up also seemed to know a lot about this turtle. I walked around the beach looking to see if there were other turtle basking, which there weren’t, but there were several bobbing up out of the water feeding. What very cool place.

Genbu on Laniakea Beach

I started to leave and a woman with a beautiful green turtle necklace on came over to me and asked if I needed any help or if I had any questions about Genbu (I must have “that” look, because this actually happens to me a lot). We started talking and she told me how she volunteers as a Honu Guardian, volunteering once or twice a month for 3-4 hours at a time. The green sea turtles are a “threatened species” and are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Laniakea is one of the few beaches that the green sea turtles come to feed and bask and they migrate here regularly from their birthing grounds on the French Frigate Shoals about 500 miles north of Oahu.

She is sort of an ambassador for the turtles and volunteers with Malama na Honu, which means “care for the turtles”. They train their volunteers on what to look for when observing and how to collect data about the turtles’ basking and feeding habits. The Honu Guardians are also on hand to help educate humans about the turtles’ migration patterns, explaining why they choose this beach to come feed and why the turtles bask on the beaches.

You can read more about them on their website and there is a cool section about each of the turtles that have been identified as regulars. This is the section about my turtle Genbu. He really is so special!

Hawaiian name: KUPONO- the worthy

Markings: PIT tags # 4250034951 and # 442E084F24

Genbu, who weighs 157 pounds and is approximately 30 years old, disappeared from the shores of Laniakea in 2004. A year later he hauled out onto the beach with a large fibropapailloma tumor on his left jaw hinge and tumors on his neck and eyes. He was successfully treated by the veterinarian with Dermex in 2005 and again in 2007. Today L-11 basks in the sun at Laniakea approximately 8 days a month. L-11 has a distinguishably flat scute on top of his shell and small “wartlike” bumps on both eyelids. A satellite tag and TDR were attached to Genbu's shell March 2009 and the transmitter removed in June, as he did not migrate in 2009.

When I first read this, I decided I like his hawaiian name better, Kupono, the worthy one. Once we get settled into our house and routine, I plan to volunteer with Malama na Honu and spend a few hours a month hanging out at Laniakea with Brian, hoping to see my “little” guy again.


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