Honolulu Zoo Society : Fragile Hawaii

Native Wildlife of Hawaii

Topic Overview

Begin the Lesson

This lesson examines some of Hawaii's native and endemic wildlife.


Whole Class Introduction to the Lesson

You will need at least one computer with Internet connectivity and a projection device, a classroom with more than one computer, or access to a computer lab.  This introduction will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Go to http://www.thewildclassroom.com/expeditions/hawaii/video/hawaiianbiodiversity.html and watch the video about Hawaii's biodiversity.

Sample Questions:

  • How did species get to Hawaii? Wings, water, and wind
  • What species are not native to Hawaiian Islands? Mosquitos, cockroaches, ticks, lice, mice, ants, four-legged walking animals, reptiles, and amphibians
  • What do you think happens when non-native species are introduced into the Hawaiian ecosystem? Answers will vary.

As part of the introduction, you may want to review some of the glossary terms in advance of students going online. At this point you can launch the WebLesson as whole-class activity using a projection device, or you can assign students to work individually or in teams in a computer lab.



WebLesson Sites
Hawaii is special. Because it's a chain of islands far out at sea, only a few types of mammals, birds, insects, and plants were able to colonize Hawaii. These native species came to the island without human help via wind, water, or wings. Over time, the few species that successfully make the journey to the islands evolved into hundreds of unique species that are found only in Hawaii. Scientists estimate that Hawaii has as many as 10,000 of these endemic species. Endemic is a name given to species that are not only native, but are found nowhere else.

Can you think of any Hawaiian endemic species?
Many of the animals you'll learn about in this WebLesson are endangered. This means they are on the brink of extinction. Can you imagine a Hawaii without them?

As you go through this lesson, think about what can be done to help the endangered animals that call Hawaii home.
Lesson Pages
Conclusion & Project
Many of Hawaii's endemic and native species lost their natural defenses against predators because the islands shelter no large land mammals or reptiles. This makes Hawaii's native species especially vulnerable to invasive, alien species and makes Hawaii, according to the Bishop Museum, the endangered species capital of the world. Hawaii has more endangered species per square mile than any other place.

Hawaii's rare birds, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, monk seals, green sea turtles, and the tree snail are just a few of the truly unique and spectacular species that call Hawaii home. Let's make sure their future generations will also call Hawaii home.

Write a letter to a local, state, or federal official letting them know the importance of the survival of endangered species and what you think needs to be done to protect the animals you learned about in this lesson.
atoll - a ring-shaped coral reef or a string of closely spaced small coral islands, enclosing or nearly enclosing a shallow lagoon
basking - to lie in or be exposed to warmth and light
bastion - fortified area or position
beleaguered - to surround or beset, as with troubles
captivity - the state of being confined to a place
cargo - freight
conical - having the form of, resembling, or pertaining to a cone
crest - a showy tuft or process on the head of an animal and especially a bird
endangered - threatened with extinction
extinct - no longer existing
fertile - rich, fruitful
migrate - to pass periodically from one region or climate to another, as certain birds, fishes, and animals
niche - ecological role and space that an organism fills in an ecosystem
peril - danger
physiology - functions of living organisms and their parts
pods - groups
predator - an animals that eats other animals
remnant - a part of something that is left when other parts are gone
species - a fundamental category of taxonomic classification where similar individuals are capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding