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Gov. Green declares 2023 the 'Year of Kāhuli' to bring awareness to endemic snails

kāhuli Hawaiian land snail

Gov. Josh Green signed a proclamation last Thursday that honors the endemic Kāhuli snail by naming 2023 the "Year of the Kāhuli."

"It really is something that we've been wanting to see happen for a long time to get broader recognition for things like snails and other invertebrates that aren't often recognized," said Kenneth Hayes, the director of the Pacific Center for Molecular Biodiversity.

What used to span over 750 species of snails, has dwindled to about 300 — due to habitat loss and invasive predators. A third of the surviving species now face near extinction.

The smaller kāhuli species are less likely to go extinct because they are able to hide from predators like lizards and larger snails, according to Hayes.

"We often think of the beautiful Hawaiian honeycreepers and monk seals and charismatic animals that obviously have an important role both culturally and environmentally, but really the world runs on the small things," he said.

Kāhuli snails like to live in wet environments, in high altitude. Each Hawaiian island has their own endemic snails, and Hayes said there is rarely crossover.

In fact, Oʻahu used to house the largest number of kāhuli snails before urbanization. Now, Maui has the highest number of living species.

"These little tiny organisms that number in the millions to billions of different species that really make the difference in how ecosystems function and our biggest knowledge gaps are with them," Hayes said.

To help commemorate the "Year of the Kāhuli," the Bishop Museum will be hosting several seminars and festivals to educate the community.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Bishop Museum also plan on designating a state snail by next year.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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