TV Show About Hunters in Hawaii Rebuked by State, Hunters

November 27, 2013, 4:55 PM HST · Updated December 15, 2:37 PM
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By Dave Smith / via our news team at Big Island Now

In Hawaii, critics abound of the practices depicted in the television series "American Jungle," a promotional shot of which is shown.

In Hawaii, critics abound of the practices depicted in the television series “American Jungle,” a promotional shot of which is shown.

A state agency has launched an investigation into activities on the new television series “American Jungle” which supposedly depicts hunting activities in Hawaii.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a statement today saying that it, as well as representatives of hunting, animal protection and film agencies in Hawaii, find the depictions “inaccurate, offensive, and in some cases, potentially illegal.”

The History Channel series which debuted several weeks ago is purportedly about “clans” who “like their ancient ancestors” use knives and spears to hunt feral bulls, pigs, goats and rams.

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“Survival depends on allegiance to family, and power belongs to those who can control the most hunting trails,” the series’ website claims.

The website describes the Big Island as a “lost land with thousands of acres of untamed jungle, home to wild beasts and the men who hunt them” during a two-month dry season.

“The will to survive takes hold as these clans battle nature and each other to become king of the American Jungle,” it said.

While the filming may have occurred on private land on Hawaii Island, the areas these clans are supposedly fighting over, as depicted on maps shown in the series, may involve public lands under the DLNR’s jurisdiction, the agency said.

The Division of Forestry and Wildlife last spring denied a request from the series’ production team for a permit to film on state forest lands.

“We denied the film permit request because it failed to provide sufficient details to indicate the show’s content, and raised concerns as to possible illegal activities that might be depicted in the series,” DLNR Chairperson William Aila said in the statement.

Some of the activities depicted, such as night hunting, are illegal both on public and private land in Hawaii, the DLNR said.

“Comments received by DLNR staff from US mainland viewers have already made it clear that the program gives a warped interpretation of Hawaii’s hunting program,” the agency said.

Randy Awo, head of the state Division of Conservation Resource Enforcement, said he was “alarmed” by what is depicted on the series.

DOCARE is investigating whether the series involves violations of those or other state laws involving conservation lands, including the hunting of feral cattle without a permit.

The series is also culturally offensive, the DLNR said.

The first episode depicts spears and dogs used to hunt a cow.

”However, in an archival review of more than 60,000 historical documents, there is no evidence that native Hawaiians hunted pigs in the forest with spears, let alone cattle,” the DLNR said.

The series is also being criticized by a member of the Hawaii County Game Management Advisory Commission.

“The show’s content does not in any way portray the views or actions of the Big Island hunters or residents,” said Commissioner Willie-Joe Camara.

Others critical of the shows included Inga Gibson, Hawaii director of the Humane Society of the United States, who raised concerns about the treatment of animals shown.

“The methods depicted violate core fair and ethical hunting principles, including preventing prolonged and unnecessary animal suffering,” Gibson said.

The state’s film coordinator was also concerned about the series’ treatment of animals and whether some of the scenes were “staged.”

“By their very nature, so-called reality television programs are difficult to control, given their unscripted, fast-paced style,” said Donne Dawson, manager of the Hawaii Film Office.

Even Hawaii’s governor weighed in on “American Jungle.”

“Hunting serves important historical, cultural and practical roles in Hawaii,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. “When guided by lawful and ethical hunting practices, hunting supports worthy conservation objectives in protection of native species and habitats against invasive and destructive elements.

“Portraying our local hunters as primitives demeans our people and their contributions to subsistence and wildlife conservation,” he said. “This appears to be a fictional ‘reality’ production with no connection to actual hunters in Hawaii.

“If we discover any laws or regulations have been broken, we will vigorously pursue legal and/or criminal charges,” Abercrombie said.

The DLNR said it and the Humane Society of the United States offer a reward of up to $5,000 for information about violations of state conservation laws, which can be reported to 1-855-DLNR-TIP.

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