HONOLULU (KHON2) – From brand-new collectible trading card games to new events, Bishop Museum continues to find new ways to bring forth Hawaiian culture and education to you.

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This time, it’s about the Native Hawaiian snail known as kāhuli.

Native Hawaiian artist Solomon Enos has done it again with his amazing artwork, this time contributing to that card game. 

When we are talking about kāhuli snails, I think people are more fascinated by the visuals of the snail. But when we speak of it in a cultural sense, what is the significance of kāhuli?

“Oh, my goodness.  Well, within our mo’olelo, they get all kinds of references to kupua, these magical creatures and very often talking about the forest being splendid with them,” says Enos.

“And the kāhuli, the sound that they would make would be singing of the empty shells, just like you would pick up a bottle and blow to make sound, our forests would sing because it had so many. But cannot miss that in the word kāhuli is huli and it talks about this idea of how critical they are to help to maintain. All this leaf litter that lands on the ground, they help it to turn into something ono for our native forests.  No more native forests, no more us. Right? So, they are at the top. They cannot speak for themselves, so we have to advocate for them.”

From culture to science, the significance in our environment and the role that they play, to find out more about that because I don’t know the answer, KHON2 News met with curators and malacologists here at the Bishop Museum, Ken Hayes and Norine Yeung. 

Ken, I know that at one point in Hawaii’s history, our forests were populated with kāhuli, but they have dwindled and became endangered over time. 

But what type of impact did that have on our environment?

“Well, just to set the context for you.  The stories of old are that snails used to hang from trees like grapes.  Clusters of grapes because there were just so many of them,” says Hayes.

“And for comparison, North America and Canada has about the same number of snails but our islands are only about 2% of that land mass. We have a very similar number, but 99% of ours are endemic only to these islands. They’re found nowhere else in the world. And they play really vital roles because a lot of the fauna that is missing from these islands that would be found on the mainland, the functions are played out by snails. So, for example, you see these snails here on these leaves from the forest that we are raising near this black mold-looking stuff, that is the snail’s food, and it grows on the plants. The snails are consuming that and what they are doing is pooping out fertilizer for the forest and without that fertilizer, our native snails no longer have a competitive advantage against invasive plants and weeds, and they slowly take over. So, as we lose the snails, we lose our native ecosystems and as Soloman emphasized, no native ecosystems, no us,” says Hayes.

This Saturday will be the 2nd annual Kahuli Festival right here at Bishop Museum for a lot more for you to learn.  

So, KHON2 News also met with the director of Public Programs and Community Engagement Taylour Chang.

“The 2nd annual Kāhuli Festival, the goal is to build capacity and raise awareness for the collective efforts that is needed to protect our native snails and ecosystems,” says Chang.

“So, we are bringing together many community partners who have been collaborating with our museum scientists to do the research and also do the groundwork necessary to protect our native snails. There is going to be many interactive activities, screenings, talks, art engagements, art activities, and it is really an entire community effort to protect our native ecosystems.”

Again, it is called the 2nd annual Kāhuli Festival taking place here at Bishop Museum this Saturday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

That card game, you can find out how to play it here and even purchase it for yourself. 

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