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Home » Headline, News

Birds And Kauai Football

Submitted by on October 26, 2010 – 9:28 pm6 Comments
Rescued Newell's Shearwater by Marco Garcia

Rescued Newell's Shearwater by Marco Garcia

Some residents of Kauai may refuse to rescue birds and will let them die all because of a football game. What is happening on Kauai?!

So there I was, reading news articles and blog posts from several sources online about this Kauai football story and just had to stop. This whole fiasco upsets me on so many levels. Let me summarize.

First, I completely disagree with the decision of some of the residents to consciously not rescue birds and just let them die.

Second, I really believe all of us have a duty and responsibility to instill in future generations a respect for nature and the environment. I know we are not perfect, but we must strive to do our best. So I completely disagree with wearing t-shirts at high school events that degrade nature. I believe this absolutely sends the wrong message.

Third, some news outlets and blogs imply that the stadium light issue was all of a sudden. It was not. Some of them don’t even mention the warning Kauai received in 2005.

Fourth, some news outlets and blogs make it sound like this entire problem is somehow the birds’ fault. Again, Kauai received their first warning in 2005. Kauai failed to correct the problem. So the way I see it, it’s not the birds’ fault at all. Kauai ignored an issue and now they can’t ignore it anymore.

Okay, now the full story.

The U.S. Justice Department said federal wildlife officials notified Kauai back in 2005 that its stadium lighting was hurting migratory birds and that it was also in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. See the stadium lights did not have the required shielding installed so the lights shine in all directions instead of just down onto the football field.

So basically young migrating seabirds mistake these bright lights for the moon or stars and become disorientated. They can end up flying in circles eventually becoming exhausted, falling to the ground.

Scott Fretz, the state’s wildlife program manager said:

When they hit the ground, it’s usually very hard for them to take off. They need a breeze or they need a place to launch from. They’re just sitting ducks for the cats that are all over the place.

The primary bird of concern is the Newell’s Shearwater. This bird numbered around 80,000 in the 1990s but has plunged 75 percent since then.

But after five years Kauai has failed to install the required shielded lights. So pressure from the federal government has forced the school to move the traditional Friday night games to Saturday afternoons.

Fortunately, Kauai did reach a deal with federal prosecutors in which officials will install shielded lights on the island’s three football fields by next season. So any night games next year will have to be played under these specially designed shielded lights. Kauai is also required to establish an escrow account to cover fines for any birds downed during the games.

Now the community is divided over the issue and many residents are angered and upset that their Autumn tradition has been tampered with. No more Friday Night Lights this year.

The way I see it is, Kauai was warned. They had five long years. Five years to fix the problem. Now that they didn’t fix it on their own, they are being forced to fix it.

I think there was more than enough time for parents and residents to get together, come up with ideas and create some fund raising events to pay for the new lighting. I mean it only took them a fraction of that time to create t-shirts like the one below once the Friday games were moved to Saturdays. Seriously, if they can make these shirts in a few days, what could they have done over a few years?

Rich Rapozo by Marco Garcia

Rich Rapozo by Marco Garcia

The person in the photo is named Rich Rapozo. He told reporters that some people are actually refusing to rescue birds they see on the ground in protest of the Saturday games. Are you kidding me?! People are going to let animals die because they couldn’t fix a problem themselves that was violating federal law?! Even after they were warned about it many years ago?!

Okay, now let’s talk about this t-shirt Rich is wearing. So here is a guy wearing, in my opinion, a distasteful t-shirt at a high school football stadium with lots of young impressionable children around. Yet he’s not the only one. According to NPR, there are over 250 t-shirts already sold in three different school colors. Wow! Not to Mention Rich comes from a family where many of his relatives either hold public office or are running for public office (like Mel Rapozo) and unfortunately share his opinions.

For example, Lenny Rapozo, who is the Department of Parks and Recreation Director, told the Garden Island that he thinks this whole lights out thing is “absurd”.

Well, I hope some of the money from these disgusting t-shirts are going towards those new lights.

Rich also said after one of those Saturday games:

“They chose the bird over our keiki.”

Keiki is a Hawaiian word for children. Sorry Rich, I completely disagree. You and your community ignored a problem for five years. You brought this onto yourselves. You ignored your keiki and the birds.

I know Rich and the rest of his community desperately want to believe they are somehow victims in all of this, but they are not. They themselves made victims out of the birds and their children by not fixing a very important problem, the lights.

Now they are making a conscious choice to wear these t-shirts and allow birds to die while their children watch and learn from their actions.

Thankfully not everyone on Kauai is like Rich. As I was researching this story, I found a few blogs from Kauai. On one of them, an anonymous resident made the following comment about what is happening there:

In Hawaiian culture all living creatures have a place in order for things to be pono or in balance. A better lesson to teach our keiki is respect for all animals and how to live along side them.

I completely agree!

  • josiesweetie

    What an appalling story! Those t-shirts make me furious.What a terrible message for the children.

  • Directory of Kauai

    You are right, Kauai has been dealing with this situation for a long time. Since 1979, volunteers and residents have collected 31,224 seabirds, and 92 percent were recovered and released. Up to 2,000 Newell's Shearwaters were picked up annually through the SOS program, and 91 percent were released into the wild.

  • kathy V.

    Here is the letter to the editor that I wrot and was published yesterday in our local Kauai paper yesterday:

    I was born and raised in Honolulu. In 1979 I moved to Kauai as I watched my childhood home

    covered with concrete. I wanted to live in an environment closer to nature. The braying call of the

    Newell’’s shearwaters flying towards their nesting sites mauka always thrills me. Like the first

    kolea to return from their nesting time in Alaska, I always noted the first shearwaters call in

    spring. Their call in the early mornings as they headed seaward to find fish for their young told

    me that dawn was coming. Like the stars they are a part of the changing of the seasons in Hawaii.

    I think of them valiantly seeking food at sea to bring back to their young in their burrows.

    Then this year I got scared. Instead of dozens of calls every night, I am hearing only one or

    two––four at the most flying over my home in Wainiha. We don’’t have bright lights nor many

    powerlines in our valley that usually account for downed shearwaters. Is it the lack of fish at sea?

    I have been told that they will not return to land to breed if there’’s not enough food in the sea to

    raise their single chick. Are pigs and rats and feral cats wiping out their nests? The adults leave

    their nestlings for the last ten days before they fledge which makes them extremely vulnerable to


    So it was with interest that I read the Associated Press article that appeared in Saturday’’s paper.

    I am glad that it has brought light to the plight of the shearwaters. However, the sentiments

    expressed by some those attending a football game baffled and saddened me. How can someone

    say that the county chose the bird over the keiki? How can the inconvenience and discomfort to

    the having to hold football games during the day outweigh saving the lives of endangered

    seabirds? (As a friend pointed out their football practice is held during the afternoons after


    And the comment that we don’’t have much to offer our kids on Kauai except Friday night

    football “And then they took that away from us.” makes me shake my head. What about surfing,

    hunting, fishing, boogie boarding?

    What has happened to sense of the reverence for the land: malama ‘‘aina? How have we gone

    from community that for decades has taken pride in caring for downed shearwaters to people

    wearing T-shirts that say “Buck the firds”? What kind of world are we moving towards where we

    can’’t be inconvenienced (for one seaon, until the county alters the lights) for the sake of another

    species’’ survival?

    I decided to volunteer for Save Our Shearwaters this fall. Yesterday, I rode with the person

    picking up birds at the aid stations along the north and east shores. At the first aid station

    someone had scribbled ” Up You Ass” on the board where people are meant to note the location

    where the bird was found. We picked up one bird at nine stations. It was the first she’’d picked

    up since the season began over a month ago. Last year they were picking up twenty a day. We

    took the bird in for rehab. With luck it will get stronger and return to sea to live its full life.

    These birds need our help not our hate. They are the proverbial canary in the coal mine; their fate

    presages our own. Yet most Kauai residents seem oblivious to how precious our native plants

    and animals are; that we live in what is often referred to as the extinction capitol of America

    because so many of our native species are in peril.

    I wonder if it is a matter of education. Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel laureate who studied animal

    behavior, wrote: “…there are fewer and fewer adults devoted to nature. Fewer and fewer hours of

    the curriculum are directed to biology. Often biology has become the least important course in

    high school. People simply don’’t believe that they will be in dire straits in a hundred years

    because of their lack of understanding in this area. The situation is already very serious. Most

    little boys easily recognize a make of car––no matter how similar cars are they can distinguish

    them perfectly––but don’’t know what kind of bird is flying past.”

    Kathy Valier

    Wainiha, Kauai

  • Parakeetlover

    Yours is the island of irreplaceable birds. Once they're gone forever, there's no turning back. Progress killed the Bachman's Warbler and the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, and I don't know how many precious bird species your beautiful state has already lost.

    Does this have to be a job for a well known nature lover? Get better lighting or think of something. BAVE the Sirds.

  • save our KIF sports

    It’s a year later, shield lights have been installed, now what? We still can’t have night games, revenue on football is down, our boys are out in 90+ degree weather with full pads. Even with the mist fans blowing, it’s still miserable and even more miserable for all the parents and grandparents that sit in the bleachers that used to be full up a few years ago.

    I am a student at one of the 3 schools that participate in the KIF. When I was a freshman/sophomore, one of the most enjoyable things for me was going to football games on Friday nights. We live in a place with little to do, and a lot of trouble to get into. Without these Friday night games, the teenagers here have nothing to do. 

    Football, as you might have guessed, is very important to us here. It’s a family affair and one of the ways that really allows the community to come together. Before, our football games used to bring in 2500+ fans some nights. For a school that only hosts 650 students in a town of only around 2000 residents, that’s really saying something.

  • Hilter

    ya never mind about us and our traditions and our way of life the haoles been doing that ever since they came here we should be use to it