Syd Singer on The End of the Senseless Slaughter of Sheep and Start Saving the Palila Bird

Commentary by Syd Singer:

Syd Singer

I am writing you about a serious problem which you can help solve!  It means saving birds and wild sheep from extinction.

The photo below shows dead sheep rotting on the slopes of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano.  Helicopters armed with government paid eradicators shooting at wild sheep with assault weapons, all for the alleged purpose of trying to save the finch-like endangered palila bird from extinction.

Picture sent in by Syd Singer

Unfortunately, killing the sheep is not helping the birds, despite 30 years of sheep carnage that has reduced their population from 40,000 to less than 300 today.  They will soon all be wiped out if we don’t stop this useless slaughter.

The sheep are being killed to prevent damage to the mamane tree, the seeds of which are food for the endangered bird.  But killing the sheep and growing more mamane has not helped the palila bird recover. In fact, weeds that had been controlled by the sheep are now tall and dry as the sheep are killed, creating a fire hazard that can destroy the palila habitat altogether.

We need to find some way to help the palila bird without needlessly exterminating every last wild sheep in Hawaii.  It’s time to call a halt to the sheep eradication experiment and do some new research into what can really help the palila, as well as the nearly extinct Hawaiian wild sheep.

Please go to this petition and sign it.  Then send it around to all the compassionate friends and contacts you have.

Together, we can end the senseless slaughter of sheep and start saving the palila bird.

Thank you, from those who really need your help.

Sydney Ross Singer

Director, Good Shepherd Foundation

10 Responses

  1. Andrew, Tony is right you talking about sheep in hawaiian homes land, not public land. You will be lucky to find one sheep near Hale Pohaku. We must stop the slaughter of all sheep, nature needs its balance.

  2. Andrew Cooper, I work up on Mauna Kea and the sheep that you refer to are in Hawaiian homes land and not our public lands under DLNR management. Also most of the goats on the west side were driven out of PTA last year. Mauna Kea has no goats since they were eradicated in 1986. Any residual goats our hiding in Waiki’i ranch and along the road. I am a hunter and I’ve been active on Mauna Kea for 40 years. It is obvious you know nothing about the sheep issue on Mauna Kea and people like you really have no clue to this issue so please keep your uninformed opinion to your self. If you would like I can meet you at the Mauna Kea visitors center and I will give you a hundred dollars if you can find me one sheep with in public lands with in 5 miles of Hale Pohaku.( shooting range of course) email me and I would gladly meet with you.
    My family has been hunting Mauna Kea since the 1930’s and I can give you all the “real story” if you are up to it.
    Get informed!

    • I work on Mauna Kea as well, up several times a week. The sheep I saw yesterday were on ranch land near the Mauna Kea intersection. A large flock on the 1935 flow. It is a rare drive up I do not see sheep in that area. The sheer size of the flocks was particularly visible during the height of the drought when they were common near the road. With the rain and the reappearance of green they appear to have dispersed somewhat.

      If you drive the road as often as I do you know the complete lie to Singer’s claim to “less than 300 today”. They are mostly to the west of the MK intersection, you can easily miss them if you come from the Hilo side.

      I have seen sheep within a couple miles of Hale Pohaku. Along the access road, above the DLNR fence line! I hike the area occasionally, and do see sign in the area, not common, but there. Most recently I have seen sheep shit and tracks on Pu’u Haiwahine, less than a mile from HP.

      The goats I refer to are mostly on military land and the ranch land around the west end of PTA and Waiki’i.

      Debating numbers does not solve the issue, a large population of feral animals with no control beyond human intervention, either through hunting or eradication efforts. How should they be managed?

      • Hi Andrew, yes the west side of the Mauna Kea access road is were a lot of the sheep have been hanging out. That is Hawaiian Homes land and not part of DLNR game management. That is private land and no way reflects the sheep population above the upper cattle guard and around our public lands.
        The point of all this is that over the past 30 years they have killed off 99% of the sheep population and last year the Palila bird count was down 40 %.
        I am not against better management practices but this “control” effort has done nothing to improve the Palila bird population.
        Einstein’s definition of insanity
        ” Keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results”

        • Question: Is the cattle or sheep that prevent the mamane from reproducing in the area below the fence? Or both. Every year I see more of those ancient mamane across the lower slopes die with few to no young trees appearing, including in areas that do not have cattle, but do have sheep.

          I get the impression that only answer to preserving the Palila (and associated species) is in expanding the range available. Not that I am idle in this. I am signed up to help plant a few thousand mamane at Pu’u Mali next month.

          • Hi Andrew, you are probable aware of this but it makes a good read. link below.


            What I know from family history, observation and talking with others is that the real Palila bird habitat was were most of the ranch land is today. At those elevations the Mamane were true trees and thus cut down by man for firewood and ranching activities. The Mamane at higher elevations grow by root runners and you will rarely see new seedlings germinate. They also appear more brush like at higher elevations. “Natural selection” favored the Mamane that grows more tree like and produces viable seeds in the lower ranch lands and the more brush like mamane at higher elevations with not so viable seeds and spreading through root runners. Altitude and lower rain fall at higher elevations also increase the toxic compounds in the seed to protect what viable seeds it may produce. Both seed predators seem to be able to recognize and avoid the most poisonous trees.
            That is why the palila birds do not advance into or stick around in the higher elevations when reintroduced. They do not favor the mamane trees and move back to certain areas.
            Simple research on trees that the palila favor to other trees may shed some new light. It is well know that the palila favor only certain trees. If we plant these favorable trees in the lower ranch lands and protect them from sheep and cattle I think we can improve a viable habitat for the palila while still maintaining some sheep in the higher elevations for all to enjoy.
            I have written several papers on this subject and since I do not have a PHD in plant or animal biology no one cares.
            The research is very poor on this subject and DLNR never did any base line study prior to eradication efforts. The goat and sheep population was out of control back then and something needed to be done, I am aware of that.
            What we need is real research and start replanting some of the fallow ranch lands. Cattle is not even profitable anymore. They would be better off fencing off 100 acre plots and planting mamane for palila and allowing our hawaiian sheep to forage around these secured plots. They could charge for big game archer hunting and the sheep would help with fire control. Sheep control measures can be used and food recovered to prevent over populations when necessary.
            This would be a management plan that we all would be willing to try and even volunteer some of our time. I only say this because our government has failed us on so many levels and they “never have money” to do anything proper.
            Aloha, Tony

          • To answer your question, just go to the visitors center at HP. Out back is a an area that has been fenced off for over 25 years from all mammal activity and yet there is no new mamane. Why do you think that is?
            The reason no new mamane trees have sprouted in the ranch land is that the mamane seeds are choked out by the none native grasses.

  3. Another note… The bad fire near Mauna Kea State park last year occured in an area particularly well populated with sheep.

    • Totally wrong again. The 1300 acres that burned was Critical Palila Bird habitat on DLNR and PTA land. That area was so thickly vegetative that you could barely walk through it. It is fenced and was totally overgrown. Many hunters will tell you that very few sheep was in there. Hawaiian Homes land was cut in two by the new highway thats why uniformed people see sheep off the side of the road and think that ” oh get plenty sheep”!

  4. 300 Sheep? Bah!! I saw more than that in one flock this afternoon. The sheep really are out of control with no predatory impact on their population. Goats as well, large herds roaming the western slopes. The damage they do to the mountain was particularly evident during the recent drought conditions.

    Care to suggest a more natural population control for the sheep and goats Mr. Singer? Mountian lions perhaps? I do miss the sound of coyotes singing in the night. We could import a few, it would doom the Nene in the process.

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