DLNR: Mauna Kea protectors impacting endangered plants, animals
It's been 62 days since protectors on Mauna Kea started demonstrations opposing the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. During a press conference on Thursday, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources announced claims demonstrators on the mountain are negatively impacting endangered plants and animals.
DLNR officers say they noticed four rare 'Anunu vines that grow on koa trees on Pu'uhuluhulu were tampered with.
"The vines were actually broken off or cut and they're all at a certain level which is not normal," said DLNR Division of Conservation & Resources Enforcement Officer Edwin Shishido.
According to the department, the discovery was made back in July after reggae superstar Damian Junior Gong Marley performed to show support for the movement.
Officers also believe other endangered fauna were trampled on as more people access trails atop the hillside across the demonstration's base camp which is considered a sensitive restoration spot.
"The way to mitigate the problem is for people to leave the area. There are tremendous impacts going on right now," said DLNR
Chair Suzanne Case.
Kia'i tell KITV they're sole purpose is to protect 'aina or land. And they're upset with how the state's rolling out accusations.
"Hawaii is the endangered species capital of the world not because of the protectors. Anyone could've come and told us instead of making some kind of press conference and making like we're some kind of deviant criminals here. Just have a conversation with us that this is what they're worried about," said Maunakea Protector Kealoha Pisciotta.
The DLNR says nene typically frequent the area around Mauna Kea Access Road but officers notice the state bird is now avoiding it. The department is also claiming camping tents set up on site are contributing to a decline in the number of Hawaiian Wolf Spiders in the area.
Kia'i say they are working with the department to reduce foot traffic where endangered species are located.