In response to The History Channel’s new series “American Jungle,” the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), as well as representatives of hunting, animal protection and film agencies in Hawaii, find the series’ depiction of hunting activities on the Island of Hawaii to be inaccurate, offensive, and in some cases, potentially illegal.
The DLNR Division of Conservation Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) is currently conducting an investigation into whether several of DLNR’s rules and regulations may have been broken during the filming of the program. Activities such as night hunting both on public and private land, are illegal under Hawaii Revised Statues §183D-27 and Hawaii Administrative Rules §13-123-6. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), which oversees DLNR’s hunting program, denied a permit request last spring for the production to film on state forest lands.
The series depicts “clans” that are fighting over access trails to territorial hunting grounds that inaccurately portray restrictive access to Hawaii’s public lands, which are held in public trust for the people. Though the filming may have occurred on private land, the maps depicted in the show clearly demark areas that are under DLNR’s jurisdiction. Comments received by DLNR staff from U.S. Mainland viewers have already made it clear that the program gives a warped interpretation of Hawaii’s hunting program.
“DLNR enforces hunting rules in the interests of public and hunter safety, established game management practices and to provide a recreational and sustainable sporting tradition. 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,” stated DLNR Chairperson William Aila.
Additionally, the cultural insensitivity of the series is also a concern to DLNR. In the first episode of “American Jungle,” spears and dogs were 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 However, in an archival review of more than 60,000 historical documents, there is no evidence that native Hawaiians hunted pigs in the forest with spears, let alone cattle. Further, cattle are not recognized as game animals in Hawaii and are illegal to hunt without a special feral cattle control permit issued by DLNR under §13-123-12.
The Hawaii County Game Management Advisory Commission also expressed its discontent.
“GMAC is very disappointed in the History Chanel’s new series, ‘American Jungle.’ The show’s content does not in any way portray the views or actions of the Big Island hunters or residents,” said Willie-Joe Camara, GMAC District 1 commissioner. “As you know, the people of the Big Island, as well as the entire state of Hawaii, take pride in helping our neighbors and showing our visitors our “Aloha” way of life. So far ‘American Jungle’’ has done nothing to show that.”
“Hunting serves important historical, cultural and practical roles in Hawaii,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie. “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. 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.”
“The methods depicted violate core fair and ethical hunting principles, including preventing prolonged and unnecessary animal suffering.” Inga Gibson, Hawaii director of the Humane Society of the United States.
The film industry provides guidelines for the proper care of animals during production. Concerns regarding the ethical treatment of animals and whether some of the scenes were “staged” have also been raised.
“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.
“But they are exactly why we have a well-established film permitting process in place. Our state film permits are the only way we can help productions get what they need safely, while at the same time protecting our natural and cultural resources and providing the necessary liability insurance.”
“The Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement is alarmed by the hunting practices depicted in the American Jungle series,” said Randy Awo, DOCARE chief. “All persons involved in verifiable hunting activities that are contrary to the laws, rules and regulations established to ensure safe and responsible hunting practices in the state of Hawaii, may be subject to criminal prosecution or DLNR administrative hearings.”