As many of you probably know, I have been going to Molokai to work at the Humane Society there off and on since we’ve lived in Hawaii. Molokai Humane Society has been working with the National Park Service in Kalaupapa to put together a spay/neuter clinic for the feral and stray cats in the settlement. Myself and several other veterinarians and helpers traveled to the settlement for our first volunteer effort in September 2012.
A brief history of Kalaupapa: it is on an isolated peninsula on the north shore of Molokai. There is a 1700 ft cliff separating the peninsula from the rest of the island. In 1865, the Kingdom of Hawaii elected to send all persons afflicted with Hansen’s Disease or leprosy to this peninsula for isolation and to try and prevent the spread of the disease. All previous residents were evicted. At first the patients/victims were dropped off on the windward coast in the village of Kalawao. There were no facilities for them and the stories of the situation for the patients are pretty outrageous. Eventually nurses, mostly nuns, and other clergy moved to the peninsula to help care for the patients. Father Damien is the most well-known, though many spent longer amounts of time (Father Damien succumbed to the disease himself) and did much work as well. Over time, more development was pursued on the leeward side of the island which is more protected. Once water supply to the new settlement of Kalaupapa was established, most of the patients were moved. With the introduction of sulfone drugs in the late 1940’s, Hansen’s disease could finally be cured. Restrictions were lifted over time, and in 1969 the old laws were finally abolished. Many of the patients, however, elected to stay in Kalaupapa where several still live to this day. Kalaupapa National Historic Park was established in 1980.
A group of volunteers went down to spay and neuter some of the many cats in the settlement. Dr Morgan and Hoala are with the Molokai Humane Society and Janie is a volunteer with MoHS. Dr Eileen and I came over from Maui and Oahu. Paul Hosten is a naturalist with the National Park Service and was our host. A few NPS volunteers helped to trap and a wonderful nurse on the island helped us with prep and supplies. There have been past efforts at trap/neuter/return at the settlement, and about half of the cats we trapped were previously neutered. Luckily they were ear notched or tipped, so we could release them without needing to administer any drugs. Our project was well-received and we have been invited back to continue our efforts.