U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

Spring 2010


Published in ArcNews Online, Spring 2010. Online at http://www.esri.com/news/arcnews/spring10articles/lehua-island-hawaii.html


Lehua Island is an uninhabited, 290-acre crescent-shaped volcanic cone located approximately 150 miles north-northwest of Honolulu, Hawaii, or approximately 20 miles west of the island of Kauai. Lehua is a state-designated seabird sanctuary managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (HIDLNR) and federally owned by the U.S. Coast Guard. Renowned for its diversity of nesting seabirds, it is home to at least 17 recorded species of seabirds, including, but not limited to, colonies of Laysan and black-footed albatross, red-footed and brown boobies, black noddies, and Newell's shearwaters. Lehua is also home to several species of native coastal plants and insects. However, invasive rats are also flourishing on the island. Early biological surveys (1931) of Lehua discovered the presence of Polynesian rats. Polynesian rats are slightly smaller than their more common cousin, the Norway rat, but are still effective predators of native island flora and fauna. Rats eat a wide variety of foods, including fleshy fruits, seeds, flowers, and other plant parts and many species of insect; they also prey on birds and their eggs. Invasive rats have eliminated seabird species and suppressed or eliminated native plant and insect populations from islands around the world.