Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Lana’i Cat Sanctuary


I just got back from a spiritual journey to the land of my birth and/or vacation, and I had some epiphanies there. The main one concerned the Maui Comic Con, which is happening on November 5, 2016 at the Cannery Mall in Lahaina. I won’t be attending it this year, but possibly in the future I will be able to combine my birthland journeys with productive, tax-deductible labor, which is a nice thing to contemplate.  Possibly if I get off my butt and finish more writing, I’ll be able to represent myself as talent of local origin and get people to throw me shakas and say aloha.  That would be nifty indeed. 

In the meantime, I’ll visit as a tourist. Another one of my epiphanies had to do with putting Hawai'i-related writing on my blog.  I don’t do a lot of travel writing because I don’t do a lot of traveling, other than birthland journeys. I do know a thing or two about the state of Hawai'i , especially since I have now visited all the islands (except Niihau and Kahoolawe, which are unvisitable).  Maybe I can get people to click their way over here for some Hawai'i travel info and incidentally buy my books. It’s all like one big circle.

On this last trip I visited Lana’i and Molokai, the last two visitable islands that I hadn’t visited. I’ll write about Molokai later. Lana’i is a small island off the coast of Maui which formerly hosted the Dole pineapple plantation. These days hardcore production agriculture of crops formerly grown in Hawai’i such as sugar, pineapples and rice is done elsewhere, so lately the island of Lana’i is primarily a resort rather than a pineapple farm, and most of it is owned by Larry Ellison. There’s a Four Seasons that takes up most of the island, and then there’s Lana’i City, where the local people live. There is a small airport, a harbor (also small) and about thirty miles of paved road. And a cat sanctuary.

This cat sanctuary was the main thing I wanted to see on Lana’i. Hawai’i generally has problems with introduced animals that have gone feral such as cats and rats and mongoose, and these creatures prey on the native birds, reducing their population to dangerously low levels. In the past, the main solution was to hunt the introduced creatures, which failed. (Another failed solution was to import other creatures to hunt the problematic creatures, which is how the mongoose got here.) 

So on Lana’i, they’re trying something intelligent for a change. All the feral cats are rounded up and put in a multi-acre fenced compound. The compound is designed by smart people who have figured out how to minimize feline territorial aggression. Although the cats can be adopted, the focus is more on giving them a decent quality of life than arranging them in cages like merchandise awaiting shoppers.  It’s a very compassionate solution that benefits the cats, the birds they no longer hunt, and the people who get to visit and have the experience of being swarmed by adorable friendly felines.

It’s primitive up there – no electricity, no souvenir shops, no mai tais, no bus stops. After taking a boat or small plane to Lana'i, you'll have to either rent a jeep or hire a shuttle to get to the cat sanctuary. I got a package through Lost in Lana’i, which included the boat and the shuttle ride. The ferry is very mellow (unlike the Molokai ferry, which crosses some rough waters) and takes less than an hour, and they say that dolphins often show up to escort the ferry through the waters, although I didn’t see any.

I did see Sweetheart Rock, which gets its name from a tragic romantic legend involving a bride who drowned in a sea cave, and a distraught groom who subsequently flung himself from the smaller rock. Love hurts.

Sweetheart Rock

I landed in Manele Harbor, which is small and cute.  Pierce, driver for Lost In Lana’i, met me and three other cat-lovers headed up to the sanctuary. 

Manele Harbor


On Lanai, we drove along a street planted with pine trees. There’s a fascinating story that goes along with these trees, which were planted by ecologist/hero George Munro, who “always traveled with a plant press strapped to his saddle.” 


Lana'i Pines

Even though it was raining – complete with thunder and lightning – the cats came out to welcome us. The friendly ones, anyway. There are around 500 cats all living together in this enclosure, with a few separate fenced areas for kittens, or for cats in the process of being introduced. Some cats are shy and keep to themselves, but lots of them are outgoing and friendly.

Lana'i Lions
I love that tuxedo guy’s two tone paws.

This is an area where the cats are groomed and brushed.
Kittengarten
A couple of big kittens hanging out above the door to Kittengarten.

Other cats would rather hang around the feeding station.

They have racks with food and water bowls, and shelter from the sun and rain.
Did somebody say "kitty treats?"
 If you want to be in the middle of a cat swarm, bring some kitty treats.
Kitty feeding frenzy
 Kitty treats can make you very popular in these parts.
The Big One

This is the biggest cat I saw at the sanctuary. He had some mobility problems so I delivered him a couple of room service treats. The cats have racks of straw-filled baskets where they can curl up and sleep.
What big ears you have!
 I love this guy’s inquisitive ears. His handsome orange friend is being all cool.

I can't decide!!!!
My most stressful moment of the day: which cat should I pet first?

This is my second-favorite cat. It took a mini nap curled up in my arms.
My favorite cat
 This guy was my favorite.
No, I will NOT look at your dumb phone
 I tried to get him to take a selfie with me.
I really am the cutest, once I hold still long enough to be photographed
But he preferred having the camera all to himself.

Bai hoominz! Visit moar! Bring cheezburgrs and kitty treets!
When it was time to go, several of the cats wished us a safe journey.

Reluctantly leaving the island of cats.

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