Settling down on higher ground

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Elvis the chicken shows off his wild locks at the Kauai Animal Education Center in Kapaa.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Christy Wong stops to say hi to one of the goats at the Kauai Animal Education Center in Kapaa.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Amy the turkey survived the April floods at the Kauai Animal Education Center and is now adjusting to more space and a mate at KAEC’s new location in Kapaa.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Sheldon the turkey is a recent addition to Kauai Animal Education Center in Kapaa.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Tapa Andrade holds Amy the turkey at the Kauai Animal Education Center’s new location in Kapaa.

Amy the turkey was stranded on top of a shack on Kauai’s Eastside in April, surrounded by rising floodwaters.

Torrential rains threatened Amy and dozens of other animals at the Kauai Animal Education Center as a record-breaking storm wreaked havoc islandwide.

And as the big bird hung tight to the top of the center’s goat shack, caretaker Christy Wong and her staff raced to retrieve pigs, goats, rabbits and tortoises from their pens before they drowned. They saved more than 100 animals. Ten died.

“It was overwhelming and it happened so fast,” Wong said. “But now we’re rebuilding.”

Rebuilding, but not in the same Kealia location that has been so prone to flooding over the years.

Instead, KAEC has moved across the valley to four acres near Kapahi.

“We always were dealing with flooding issues, but then the big one happened,” Wong said. “It was time to find somewhere else.”

KAEC is now situated off of Kaapuni Road in a lush valley with plenty of space for 88 animals.

It’s a place of sanctuary for “the others,” as Wong puts it — the farm animals and pets that the Kauai Humane Society isn’t equipped to care for but that are still in need of a home.

Right now, animals are living together in slightly cramped quarters as the KAEC staff clears land for more habitats and gets supplies and materials organized.

The center’s flock of show pigeons, for instance, currently show off their fancy feet in a temporary shelter although they’re destined for a tree-based habitat next to a stream on the property.

Amy shares her habitat with the center’s goats and Lucy the goose, but eventually each of the 14 species at KAEC will all have their own spaces.

“We see it as a responsibility to provide the right habitat and enough space for all our animals,” Wong said. “So, we’re working on getting habitats set up.”

Horses are clearing some of the land for the staff, and across the stream, rabbits are already running their very own Bunny Land, hopping around their work-in-progress habitat.

All of the animals at KAEC have a story. Many of them represent species found in the wild on Kauai, like the center’s pheasant and roosters, or Mana the baby wild pig that nips at ankles and plays tag with visitors.

“So you can come here and see these animals that you’d usually only see in the wild and you can learn about them, touch them and feel them,” Wong said.

The rabbits and other small animals are lent to classrooms. Others teach from the center, like Emerald the rose-ringed parakeet, at KAEC because she broke her wing. Her bright colors draw attention and present the chance to chat about invasive species.

“We have a few of those here, like the tortoises bought into Mahaulepu to eat other invasive species,” Wong said.

Now, not only is Amy’s habitat bigger, she also has a mate — Sheldon, a 1-year-old male turkey adopted from a farmer who had too many.

“She’s been making different sounds and her personality’s been showing a lot more,” Wong said. “We can hear them talking to each other and we can tell when she’s angry, too.”

And that’s not the only new animal interaction the staff has noticed at the new location — the addition of a donkey has changed the dynamic, as well.

“It’s amazing the interactions they’re having and the bonds they’re forming,” Wong said. “We’re just so grateful to be here and now that we are we’re working on making the whole vision happen.”

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