From vibrant artists to passionate trailblazers and young entrepreneurs, Maui Times talks story with local residents behind the logo and paintbrush.
Hawaiʻi has more species on the extinction list than any other state or US territory. Recently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared 23 new species extinct, which included nine from Hawaiʻi. Many hear about the alarming rate of species around the world disappearing but this is the epicenter.
“Hawaiʻi is the extinction capital of the world,” Che Frausto stated. With the ongoing pattern of Hawaiʻi’s wildlife disappearing, the thirty-year-old is motivated to increase education about native species and their critical habitats. With a line of educational coloring books that feature endangered animals in Hawaiʻi and important facts, Frausto started Advanced Wildlife Education (AWE) in 2016. “I’ve always loved to draw, so I combined my passions and started AWE.”
By creating engaging coloring books, Frausto intends to be the bridge between the community, biologists, and nonprofits. His coloring books include information about the species and their habitats. In each book, he adds tips on how to support these animals even on an individual level.
Frausto studied biology and environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 2014, an internship with Kupu brought him to Maui where he worked with the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project and became a full-time field biologist. In this position, he focused on protecting the ‘ua’u kani (wedge-tailed shearwater). “Seabirds have a special place in my heart,” Frausto said. “They’re really cool and goofy at the same time.” He explained the seabirds can dive 200-feet underwater. More impressively, they can sleep and fly simultaneously.
While working with the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project, Frausto realized that educating the public is essential to protecting these animals. He found that many people want to support threatened species but are unaware they even exist.
“That’s why I started AWE,” Frausto said. “Because I noticed a huge gap between the community and conservation.” There is constant fieldwork needing attention, leaving little time to do outreach in the community.
Frausto represents AWE at the Maui Swap meet and craft fairs around the island, sharing exciting facts about wildlife. Along with his coloring books, he designed T-shirts, bracelets, and stickers. Frausto donates 10% of his profits to conservation organizations including the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project, Kauaʻi Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, and Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund.
Nearly 20 locations on Maui also sell Frausto’s educational coloring books, including Haleakala National Park, Maui Ocean Center, and Pacific Whale Foundation. His coloring books are also at parks on neighboring islands as well as in California, Oregon, Washington, and Japan.
“I started off creating Hawaiian education books but I realized this problem is everywhere. Everyone needs to know about their native species,” Fausto said. While creating his book on endangered species across the world, Frausto said it was actually quite disheartening to make. “I had to turn it into multiple books because there are so many animals becoming endangered.”
AWE covers wildlife from every continent with books also dedicated to seabirds, marine mammals, and even dinosaurs. Frausto also developed an app for Android and Apple to digitally bring animals to life.
He encourages younger generations to take interest in preserving the biodiversity of the planet, especially the species near their homes. By establishing more awareness that these valuable creatures exist, Frausto hopes the public will recognize their contributions to ecosystems and be active as volunteers or make donations with organizations that protect animal species.
Dedicated to increasing awareness about these critical species in Hawaiʻi, Frausto presents at local schools. During his presentations, he also explains to students the types of opportunities available when pursuing a career in science and conservation.
Speaking to local students, Frausto also hopes to serve as an entrepreneurial model for those interested in starting their own business. “I tell them that they can follow their passions and as long as they work hard, they can do what they want.”
Photo Credit: Grace Maeda