King Kong, Coral And Reef Revival

Sometimes it takes a gorilla to scare us into valuing our coral reefs. Jane Esaki photo

Sometimes it takes a gorilla to scare us into valuing our coral reefs. Jane Esaki photo

The ocean was my backyard while growing up: boiled lobsters by the dozen, fried manini and papio, and tako tentacles steamed in beer. Those were the days.

Will Kauai’s shallow underwater reefs ever provide that bounty again?

I came across a glimmer of hope not long ago, while at a beach near my stomping grounds, when a gorilla emerged from the sand. A gorilla? And what do gorillas have to do with reefs, anyway?

Not much, except this toy ape was covered in coral!

Curiously, I grabbed the miniature figure between my thumb and index finger, and like a child possessing a newfound object, placed it on the dashboard in different positions against the backdrop of the ocean. Through my camera’s macro lens, the image was stunning.

Nearly engulfed in a thin layer of white coral, this object had taken on an organic aura. Coral polyps had swathed their calcified exoskeletons over every millimeter of the plastic substrate. The tiny animals had uniformly planted their colony on the primate’s defined contours, bringing its familiar protruding forehead and conspicuous muscles to life.

I almost could hear King Kong roaring and pounding his pronounced chest!

But let’s get back to reality. The ape is but a black plastic action figure.

What is awesome is the coral that enlivened it, the same coral that created the shallow underwater reefs that sustained our family back then. As an innocent child, I didn’t realize how important and vulnerable those tiny soft polyps inside the hard reef surface were.

One of nature’s miracles, the coral has a symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae that grow in its tissues and both of their survival depend on ideal environmental conditions and human respect.

Thanks to positive natural occurrences, greater awareness and science initiatives, there are hopeful signs of coral regeneration in some parts of the world.

It enlivened this little gorilla, anyway. How reassuring to think that if the coral can bring a little piece of plastic to life, how it might still be able to revive Kauai’s shallow underwater reefs! Lobsters, manini and tako surely would love to live there again.