The Amazing Story Of Kaloakulua

A North Shore author publishes a children’s book about a special bird that captivated the world

North Shore resident Kaloakulua was an Internet sensation last year. In fact, she became so famous that she even had her biography written. But this celebrity doesn’t wear evening gowns and attend red carpet events. She’s beautiful enough in her dazzling white and smoky gray feathers.

Kaloakulua is an albatross whose life was recorded by a camera from Cornell Lab of Ornithology and voluntarily monitored by Kauai Albatross Network.

Perhaps it was her sweet, fuzzy newborn face that initially captivated audiences, or maybe it was her plucky nature that moved people. Either way, Susan Dierker was so intrigued by Kaloakulua that she decided to write a children’s book about her, titled Albatross of Kauai: The Story of Kaloakulua.

“She was adventurous and curious,” says Dierker, who was on the KAN team that remotely operated the camera and kept its focus on the bird, from the day she hatched to the day she fledged.

Her story depicts Kaloakulua’s early recorded life, and Dierker even uses digitally altered screen shots from the camera to enhance the tale.

“It’s just such a wonderful situation that they’re here and that the camera could capture their first moments of life,” she says. “There’s very little that people know about the albatross.”

Dierker wanted to create a book that would allow people to get up close and personal with albatross and gain a sense of appreciation for them.

“And want to protect them,” she notes.

Laysan albatrosses are largely unique to Hawaii, where the majority of the population resides. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, they are classified as “near threatened” and are susceptible to dangers, including habitat loss.

Plastic is another threat to their survival. The adults often accidentally pick up pieces of floating plastic and other debris as they skim the ocean for food. When they feed their babies, some of this is transferred to their young, who have a harder time regurgitating foreign objects from their food. At several months old, the camera captured Kaloakulua throwing up several pieces of plastic, as well as a covered syringe that still had pink liquid in it. Other babies aren’t always as lucky.

“It’s horrible to see,” says Dierker.

Despite some of the hardships she had to witness, such as a close encounter with a dog, she was hooked on watching Kaloakulua and felt lucky to be a part of the operating team.

“People were watching all over the world,” she says.

Now she hopes all those people will feel inclined to pick up her book, and that she will be part of the continued effort to educate others about these special seabirds.

Dierker only started writing a few years ago after penning her first book Knuckles, The Hound of Hanalei. She wrote the story about her pooch to help cope with the death of her husband Rick.

“I needed something to focus on and that was what it was,” she says.

The book (and the dog) were so popular that she even wrote a second story about Knuckles. Sadly, Knuckles has died, but his legacy of cruising Hanalei Bay, foraging for food and cozying with friends, is still remembered, and he even has a section of the beach named after him in tribute.

Dierker hopes to write another book soon. But this one again is likely to focus on wildlife.

“We live in a unique place, and there are so many different forms of wildlife that don’t exist that much anywhere else that you can see up close, so I think it’s important to keep educating people,” she says.

The Hanalei resident strives to make her books as pleasing as possible to children, so that they become interested in the subject matter. She even includes Hawaiian word translations to extend the learning experience.

“I think it’s important for their education and gives them something else to learn while they’re reading,” she says. “I want them to be as appealing as possible so that children will have them, treasure them and pass them down.”

Most importantly, however, Dierker just wants to see people smile and enjoy reading about animals like Kaloakulua. “It’s important to me to bring happiness to people if I can.”

Visit albatrossofkauai.com for more information about the book.

cocomidweek@gmail.com

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