Big Island man defends his actions in axis deer case
One of three men investigated for transporting invasive species speak out
The Department of Land and Natural Resources call them a nuisance. For Big Island rancher Danny Rocha it's a matter of living off the land.
"We feel by bringing the deer it's helping the cause, instead of killing them," said Rocha.
Rocha was one of three men investigated for transporting axis deer from Maui to the Big Island back in 2009 in exchange for mouflon sheep. According to a new law, transporting axis deer between island is illegal.
Rocha was charged with raising mouflon sheep without a permit. Although he was not charged with smuggling the deer, Rocha admits to trading sheep for axis deer.
The 65-year-old Mountain View man and his lawyer defend his actions saying axis deer are a food source.
"Why not have animals that could sustain the state in the wild in just case of an emergency and instead have nothing when that emergency starts?" said Rocha. "It's a very healthy meat to eat. It's a very healthy animal."
However DLNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials disagree. They say axis deer is an invasive species which destroy crops and causes millions of dollars in damage
"It's believed they can cause up to 18 million dollars annually in damage in agriculture and other industry if you use the numbers from Maui." said Earl Campbell from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "There is significant concerns that it will have similar impacts on the Big Island which we currently don't have."
Rocha pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and a thousand dollar fine. As part of his community service Rocha teaches keiki how to use the land and natural resources to grow and produce their own food.
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