Kaua‘i Kumu, Educator, Awarded for Conservation Efforts
One or two days, nearly every spring, you can find Sabra Kauka in Lydgate County Beach Park speaking to kekei about the life of shearwaters. They’re the tiny seabirds that, after fledging, leave land and stay out at sea for two years or longer.
Kauka’s expertise and delight in sharing the stories of these remarkable, rehabilitated birds and much of the other natural life of Hawai‘i has made her a revered kumu, a highly respected educator, and a much sought-after conservationist.
On Saturday, March 19, among other honors, Kauka was named a DLNR & YOU Citizen Conservationist for her outstanding life-long contributions to the betterment of natural and cultural resources on Kaua‘i and across Hawai‘i.
Currently, Kauka serves as the head of the cultural sub-committee for the Lehua Island Restoration Advisory Committee. It’s the multi-agency group that successfully eradicated Pacific rats from Lehua, which is a State Seabird Sanctuary, and is home to dozens of seabird species and endemic plants. In this role, Kauka is helping develop a more comprehensive cultural and archeological restoration plan to help guide future management actions on Lehua.
She blessed the island once the rats had been exterminated. On that day, her first-ever visit to Lehua, her eyes twinkled while she offered chants and pule for the newly restored island free of the rodents that devoured countless eggs and chicks over many decades. She commented how honored and excited she was to visit Lehua.
Sheri S. Mann, the Kaua‘i Branch Manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, describes Kauka as a “staunch advocate for the environment.” She recently provided the blessing for an expansion of the Kawaiele/Mana wetlands, which is growing by 100 acres.
“Sabra has worked with the State and Kauai’s Save Our Shearwaters program for decades,” Mann said. “It’s so meaningful to watch her bless the endangered shearwaters as she and others release them and watch as they embark on their long ocean journey.”
“I have the highest regard for Sabra’s tireless efforts to educate young minds to become knowledgeable and to Mālama ka ‘aina (take care of the land) Kaua‘i is so lucky to have her,” she added.
Kaua‘i Mayor Derek Kawakami also proclaimed March 19 “Sabra Kauka Day.” At a luncheon to honor her at Keoki’s Paradise in Po‘ipū, the corporate owners of the restaurant also recognized her with its first Ho‘oulu Award. It will be presented annually to someone who “dedicates their energy to keeping things vibrant, to perpetuating traditions that inspire others, and show community engagement in culture, science (sustainability) and biocultural diversity.
“Three honors in one day, is fitting for an individual who has worked tirelessly as an advocate for nature and conservation, and then shares her passion and knowledge with keiki and others on a daily basis,” Mann said.