KOHOLĀ BIRTH

History in the making. by ALOHA OUTDOORS STAFF

This year, an ambitious videographer hopes to be the first to document the birth of a North Pacific Humpback Whale.

Maui resident Chris Cilfone is a marine biologist and cinematographer, and has spent a number of years exploring and studying a variety of marine life. But it wasn’t until he moved to Maui in 2012 that he became fascinated with the beauty and mystery of humpback whales.

“After I started working with the animals and learning more about them, it dawned on me that this particular animal, this humpback whale, we’ve studied for half a century but we still barely know anything about it,” he explained.

Intrigued and curious, he began delving into their story. In the 1970’s, the North Pacific Humpback Whales were hunted and killed to near-extinction. With only 500 left, they were eventually placed on the endangered species list. Conservation efforts followed, and today the population is estimated around 25,000.

Cilfone says these whales are the “poster animal for the conservation movement.” He hopes to tell their tale in his upcoming film “KOHOLĀ,” using the birth as the center of the story.

“I essentially wanted to create a film that shows their success…” he said. “But you can’t talk about the success story of a species without talking about the next generation. And then I was like, ‘Wait a minute! We don’t know anything really about how the next generation comes into the world. What if we’re the first people to film the birth of humpback whales?’”

And so Cilfone began the process of turning this idea into a reality. He worked for months to get a permit to film these animals. Currently, the law restricts anyone from being within 100 yards of the whales. With the permit secured and with help of a grant from National Geographic along with several other funders, he’s ready to start filming this winter.

He says he has a few leads on where and how these animals might give birth, but admits documenting the experience will be challenging. Regardless, he’s determined to see the project through and is optimistic.

Cilfone says he hopes the island community will rally around the film. He chose the name “KOHOLĀ” out of respect for Hawaiian culture, and plans to showcase the island’s understanding of sustainability and respect for nature in the movie.

“The Hawaiian culture is rooted deep in environmental consciousness. Regarding the natural world, respect, balance, and subsistence are the cornerstones to their beliefs. This story shows us what happens when we stray too far from this philosophy but still come together in time to correct our actions. It is physical proof that we can make a difference,” he said.

Check back soon! We’ll be updating this page as the story unfolds.

 

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