Finding live coral on the island of Oahu is a rare thing indeed! This is one of the few living corals at Pupukea (Shark’s Cove). Dead coral is either white or brown. (That is the mass which surrounds the pink coral in the picture.) Alive coral is pink, purple and every other color of the rainbow. Human impact plays a large role in the endangerment of coral. Understanding how we impact the coral is key to stopping it from extinction. However we must unlock the solution by acting upon our knowledge.
Corals are different animals from human beings. Human beings have their skeleton on the inside. Whereas a coral wears its skeleton on the outside. The outter layer of tough calcium that gives the coral its form is the skeleton. This calcium skeleton is white. The coral’s color comes from the little soft animals that live inside of the tiny holes in the calcium skeleton. The coral animal cannot live without its skeleton.
This little soft coral animal that lives in the calcuim skeleton is very sensitive to heat. There are little plant-like creatures that live inside the skeleton with the coral animal called zooxanthelle. The zooxanthelle make food for the coral from the sunlight in the water. Its similiar to a farmer and his vegetable garden. The zooxanthelle is the vegetable garden and the farmer is the little coral animal who lives in his calcium house. When the waters become too hot then the farm vegetables die and the coral starves. This is similiar to a human famine when the farm vegetables die from droughts and people go hungry. If the water becomes too warm then a coral’s garden of zooxanthelle are expelled from their home. Thus resulting in the coral animal dying from starvation and the coral turning white. This is “coral bleaching”.
Another way coral dies is from careless swimmers. The little coral animal is very small and soft. This may seem confusing since its hard outter skeleton can scrape our feet if we walk on it. When people walk, sit, bump or even barely touch the coral, the little coral animal and its zooxanthelle are SMASHED into its own skeleton. This also kills the animal. Almost all of the coral at Hanauma Bay is dead because many careless tourists did not pay attention to the life guards and biologists informing them to stop standing on the coral. Now all the coral located in the inner reef is dead.
To avoid accidently hurting coral we need to focus on educating people on how to treat coral. We need to stop global warming and stop touching the animals. It is also against the law to take live coral home or out of its natural habitat. Please keep these things in mind while viewing corals in Hawaii.