Maui Nui translates to greater or larger Maui and is a modern geologists’ term for the prehistoric Hawaiian island that was once made of up of the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. Over epochs of time, their separate volcanoes sank into the sea, the saddles between them flooding with water, leaving behind four distinct islands. Present-day, these islands are still grouped on a county level, and besides their ancient geological ties, another unique trait that links the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai, a similarity not shared with the rest of the Hawaiian group, is the existence of Axis deer.
Introduced in 1868 to the island of Molokai by King Kamehameha V, this unique species of deer, native to India, started out as a group of eight. After a century-and-a-half spent in Hawaii’s lush, temperate and predator-less environments, Molokai’s deer population is now estimated to be as large as 40,000-60,000 animals. Likewise, on Lanai, twelve deer were released in 1920. Today their numbers have grown to at least 20,000 deer. Fifty years after being introduced to Maui, nine Axis deer now amount to nearly 30,000-50,000.
Though these numbers would seem to indicate a thriving deer presence in Hawaii, these population booms are occurring on islands with very finite resources where ranchers compete with deer for grass and farmers can lose an entire crop to super herds in a single evening. Axis deer also pose a huge threat to the islands’ incredibly fragile ecosystems, so fragile, in fact, that Hawaii has been dubbed the endangered species capital of the world. Here, invasive ungulates, like deer, wreak havoc on the delicate balance needed to sustain native plant and animal life found no where else in the world.
What has become very clear is that it is in the best interest of Hawaii’s ecosystems, agricultural systems, human health, along with the health of the deer themselves, that deer numbers are properly managed. We are proud to work with our exclusive supplier, Kia Hawaii (a company founded by one of the partners at Maui Nui) whose team has an intimate understanding of managing wild Axis deer in Hawaii as an invasive species but also an incredible food resource for our communities.
Maui Nui was chosen as the name for our company and is also depicted in our logo and packaging as a way to honor the islands that provide such a rich resource, the stewardship of which is central to our mission.