Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (Honu) at Mauna Lani
Kohala Coast, HAWAII - In 1989 Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows began a close, enduring relationship with the honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) when the resort developed a program with Sea Life Park Hawaii. The resort received 3-5 month old juvenile honu, which they then went on to raise in the saltwater ponds at the hotel.
Today, 28 years later this program continues to thrive. The honu are raised for 2-3 years and attentively cared for until they grow to a size and weight when they are deemed ready to be released into the ocean.
This release occurs each July 4, which is known as “Turtle Independence Day” at Mauna Lani Bay. The honu, an identified threatened species, is the only indigenous reptile of Hawaii, evolving some 180 million years ago. The honu is revered as a symbol or Aumakua in Hawaii and many consider the honu to be the bearer of good luck and peace.
Throughout the year Mauna Lani Bay offers complimentary educational programs and tours to raise awareness among its guests and the public of this threatened species. The “Fish Feeding Tour” is led by the resort’s Loko I’a (Fishponds) Manager, Pi’i Laeha, a true Hawaiian waterman, whose encyclopedic knowledge of Hawaii’s marine life is second to none. Laeha’s role is to care for the resort’s resident honu along with the hundreds of different fish and marine organisms that can be found in the surrounding ponds, from Black-Tipped and Hammerhead Sharks to Hawaii’s state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, (also one of the longest words in the Hawaiian language!).
Each year, anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred honu hatch at Sea Life Park from the nest of adult green sea turtles that the Park has housed since the early 1970’s (prior to the Endangered Species Act). The majority are tagged with National Marine Fisheries Service tags and released into the ocean within the first 24 hours of their life, but a few turtles are held back and sent to qualified facilities like Mauna Lani Bay as part of an educational loan program.
After approximately two years of inhabiting Mauna Lani’s saltwater ponds, and prior to July 4, the honu undergo a thorough pre-release veterinary check. Those that are declared fit for release are the stars of Turtle Independence Day.
Mauna Lani Bay is proud to have released more than 220 Honu into the pristine waters in front of the resort since the program’s inception 28 years ago. Mauna Lani provides a temporary foster home for the honu to help educate the public about the efforts being made toward the preservation of this species.
Turtle Independence Day is a free community celebration. A welcome ceremony kicks-off the event followed by the release. This annual celebration honors the honu and helps educate the public about the Hawaiian green sea turtle. Families are invited to join the celebration! As part of the day’s activities, guests can also enjoy an educational Honu display and a tasting of Hawaii’s summertime cuisine from island Food Trucks.
For more information about the Honu program at Mauna Lani Bay, visit www.maunalani.com