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Molokini Islet Seabird Sanctuary



Molokini islet is a horseshoe shaped tuff cone of Haleakalā located about midway in the channel between the islands of Maui and Kaho‘olawe. It is approximately 22 acres and reaches a height of 160 ft. The outer slope is steep and precipitous with sparse vegetation and the inner slope is less steep and is where most of the vegetation occurs. It is home to Portulaca molokiniensis, an endemic, federally listed endangered species. Harsh winds keep woody vegetation from growing no more than one or two meters. Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), dominates the islet. Near the landing are a few non-native species, such as sourgrass (Digitaria insularis) and Boerhavia (Boerhavia coccinea). Non-native portulaca species (Portulaca pilosa and Portulaca oleracea) are scattered about the islet, mostly in open areas. Also scattered about the islet are tree tobacco and koa haole. Native species, such as pau o hi‘iaka (Jacquemontia ovalifolia subsp. sandwicensis) and ilima (Sida fallax) are also found scattered about the islet. The diversity of plants increases in open areas not dominated by buffel grass. Along the lower portions of the islet, close to the ocean, a few native species were found, including ‘ena‘ena (Heliotropium curassavicum), ‘ākulikuli (Sesuvium portulacastrum), and ‘ōhelo kai (Lycium sandwicense). ‘Ua‘u kani (wedge-tailed shearwaters or Puffinus pacificus) are the main residents, accompanied by ‘iwa (frigate birds or Fregata minor) are often observed soaring over the islet.

As with all state Seabird Islet Sanctuaries, visiting Molokini is prohibited. They are rare places where seabirds can nest with few or no predators and no large mammals (including humans) trampling and crushing the burrow where they raise their young. Turtles and seals can rest on their tiny shores without harassment and they are havens for native insects and plants without people constantly inadvertently bringing in weed seeds and other alien pests. Respect and admire these places through binoculars, peacefully, from shore.