Nenes make school
campus part of their home

Boarders balance labor, liberty

By Leah Kadotani
Lahainaluna High School

The Hawaiian goose, or nene, is one of 30 bird species in Hawaii classified by the state and federal government as an endangered species. As Hawaii's state bird, it adds a special motivation to preserve the nene as a symbol of native Hawaiian wildlife.

The "Nene of Lahainaluna," so named because they were known to visit an aquaculture pond above Lahainaluna High School and occasionally made their way to the campus, have become another inspirational and amazing aspect of the school.

As students change classes throughout the day, they watch the nenes look for insects, fly around campus and land on classroom rooftops.

"The nene make our school unique," said senior Kelli Marchello. senior Joice Castillo agreed: "The nene remind us of our traditional past."

Environmental and Spatial Technology facilitator and Lahainaluna alumnus Keola Rogat said: "The nene are a part of Hawaiian culture and history. Lahainaluna puts a lot of emphasis on traditions. We are proud to be a home for an endangered species, our state bird."

Rogat remembered when the geese wandered into his classroom. "The students were very respectful and never let the nene become a distraction."

Students keep a respectful distance not only because of the laws, but also because "nene are very territorial," said senior Joseph Felix.

"I'm scared of them because geese bite," added senior Michelle Respecio.

"No one thinks about disturbing them," said junior Trina Ueno. "It's as if they are a part of the student body."

Despite the Lunas' love of the nenes, a tragedy took place last May. Conservation enforcement officials launched an investigation into whether someone intentionally ran over and killed a mother nene and one of her goslings on a cane haul road above the campus.

The male gosling had a visible tire track on it, and the mother nene, nicknamed the "Lahaina mom," also appeared to have been hit.

The mother, known by her identification band as BZ, was one of only two female nenes to have produced young in West Maui.

"It's such a shame," Rogat said. "It was carelessness."

Marchello said: "We were all shocked. Who would do such a thing? We are so fortunate to be able to share our school days with such beautiful creatures. The death of the geese devastated faculty and staff alike."

Nevertheless, the nenes continue to make appearances on campus.

"They're our unofficial mascots," Respecio said. "They pick up our spirits and give us yet another reason to be proud of our school."

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