A pond at a wildlife refuge in Maui has turned bright pink, drawing curious onlookers to catch a glimpse of the otherworldly sight and prompting warnings from federal wildlife officials to keep a safe distance.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service said it has been monitoring the unusual transformation since Oct. 30 and has been working with the Hawaii State Department of Aquatic Resources and Department of Health to determine its cause and a potential course of action.
Preliminary analysis of water samples conducted by the University of Hawaii (UH) suggest the water’s rosy hue is “not likely a toxic algae” like those that produce harmful red tides. However, USFWS is advising people to avoid contact with the pond until further analyses can be completed.
“As a precautionary measure, we recommend that people keep a safe distance and not enter the water, don’t consume any fish from the water, and ensure that pets don’t drink the water.”
For now, the USFWS is attributing the Pepto Bismol-like color of the water at Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge to a single-celled organism called halobacteria, which thrive in highly salty waters.
Wildlife officials said the current salinity levels of the pond are greater than 70 parts per thousand, twice as high as those found in seawater, which is creating favorable conditions for the bacteria.
UH is working to determine the exact strain of the halobacteria, at which point the USFWS said it will keep the public informed.
The Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is a coastal salt marsh that hugs Maui’s south central coast. The typically freshwater pond takes up about 400 acres during the rainy winter season, shrinking to about half its size during spring and summer months.
Keālia Pond was designated as a wildlife refuge in 1953 and became part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1992.
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