HONOLULU (AP) — A pond in Hawaii has turned so bubble gum pink it could have come from the filming of “Barbie,” but this bizarre phenomenon is no reason for a dance party. Drought could be to blame for the strange hue, scientists say, and they warn against entering or drinking the water.
Staff at Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Maui have been monitoring the pink water since October 30.
“I just got a report of someone walking on the beach, and they called me and said, ‘There’s something weird going on here,'” said Bret Wolfe, the shelter’s director.
Wolfe was concerned that the bright pink could be a sign of an algae bloom, but laboratory tests revealed that toxic algae was not the cause of the color. Instead, an organism called halobacteria could be the cause.
Halobacteria are a type of archaea or single-celled organisms that thrive in salt-rich bodies of water. Salinity inside the Kealia Pond outlet area is currently above 70 parts per thousand, twice the salinity of seawater. Wolfe said the lab will need to conduct DNA analysis to definitively identify the organism.
WATCH: Maui’s Pink Pond Fascinates Visitors
Wildlife refuge pond in Hawaii mysteriously turns bright pinkA pond in Hawaii has turned so bubble gum pink it could have come from the filming of “Barbie,” but this bizarre phenomenon is no reason for a dance party.
The drought on Maui is likely contributing to this situation. Normally Waikapu Creek flows into Kealia Pond and raises the water level there, but Wolfe said that hasn’t happened in a long time.
When it rains, the stream flows into the main Kealia Pond and then into the now pink drainage area. This will reduce salinity and potentially change the color of the water.
“Maybe that’s what makes it go away,” Wolfe said.
No one at the shelter has ever seen the pond this color before, not even the volunteers who have been around it for 70 years. However, the pond has gone through periods of drought and high salinity before, and Wolfe isn’t sure why the color has changed now.
Curious visitors flocked to the park after photos of the pink pond appeared on social media.
“We’d rather they come hear about our mission of conserving native and endangered waterbirds and our wetland restorations. But no, they’re here to see the pink water,” Wolfe joked.
He understands everyone’s fascination.
“If that’s what gets them there, it’s no big deal,” he said. “It’s nice.”
The wildlife refuge is a wetland that provides nesting, feeding and roosting habitat for the endangered Hawaiian stilt, known as the aeo, and the Hawaiian coot or alae keokeo. It also welcomes migratory birds during the winter.
The water does not appear to harm the birds, Wolfe said.
As a wildlife refuge, people are not supposed to enter the pond or leave their pets in the water, regardless of its color. But authorities are taking extra precautions to warn people not to enter the water or eat fish caught there, as the origin of this color has not yet been identified.