Clarence “Aku” Hauanio Retires After 29 Years at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
Clarence “Aku” Hauanio retired May 30, 2014 after 29 years of service to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Aku worked for the Natural Resources Management division as a pest control worker, and was devoted to protecting the endangered species within the park, including the nēnē (endemic Hawaiian goose), and the ‘ua‘u (Hawaiian petrel).
Residents of Kalapana, Aku and his ‘ohana (family) created a legacy at the park by serving the NPS for four generations. His grandfather, John Pa‘i Hauanio, Sr., worked here, as did Aku’s father, John Pa‘i Hauanio Jr., who built the rock wall and park sign that welcome visitors entering from the south. The much-photographed grove of coconut palms trees on the makai (ocean) side of the end of Chain of Craters Road was planted by John Jr., and marks the ancient Hawaiian village of Panau. Aku’s sons, Kainoa and Ikua, have both worked and volunteered at the park.
Aku’s influence on the park community is extraordinary. He worked in several program areas, including Protection, Maintenance, and Natural Resources Management. He worked on backcountry trails, built miles and miles of fence, and removed invasive, non-native weeds to protect native plant and animal communities in the park. According to his field supervisor, Nēnē Recovery Project Manager Kathleen Misajon, Aku’s hard work and dedication to the program over the past 10 years has greatly contributed to an increase in the park’s population from 152 to 250 wild birds.
“Aku contributed his skills to many aspects of our program, from fencing projects and feral animal control to monitoring nests and helping band the endangered geese,” Misajon said.
Aku is also a canoe builder, and inspired a community of outrigger canoe paddlers, dedicating countless hours to coaching teams that paddled together competitively, and for fun. An avid fisherman who uses traditional Hawaiian as well as modern techniques, Aku is looking forward to spending more time on the ocean during his retirement. He will continue to live in and care for Kalapana with family.