American Jungle Producer Responds to Allegations by State Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

The producer of History Channel’s latest TV Series “American Jungle” has responded to the allegations made by the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

TJaye Forsythe

TJaye Forsythe

TJaye Forsythe posted the following on Facebook tonight:

I can no longer be silent. I’ve been informed that the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has made a statement regarding the show “American Jungle”. The press release alleges that the show is “inaccurate, offensive, and in some cases, potentially illegal”.

Let me get straight to the point of being “inaccurate.” This is a television show not a documentary. Television shows have fictional and non-fictional elements to them. “American Jungle” was considered more of a reality show because these are not actors and they are not reading from a script. If the show was meant to be an accurate depiction of hunting in Hawaii, we would have created a documentary. If the DLNR believes that the show is “inaccurate” then I believe they’ve answered their own question about “American Jungle” just being a television show. Like the show Hawaii 5-0, I don’t believe this is how police procedures are done in the State of Hawaii because I know it’s just a show.

Second, what is “offensive” is that DLNR has made a press release placing false allegations on A&E and History Channel without making any contact with the network. I have been informed by the network that no one from the DLNR had contacted them prior to making the press release to clear up any inaccurate or illegal issues. DLNR claims that “filming may have occurred on private land, the maps depicted in the show clearly demark areas that are under DLNR’s jurisdiction.” DLNR decides to use the animated map on the television show and claims it clearly marks the areas they believed were used in filming. For those who have watched the show, it is obvious that this animated map is not drawn to scale and has no ratio measurements to pinpoint the exact locations. DLNR’s use of the animated map from the television show indicates the extent of their investigation. DLNR did not contact the network to clear the private and public land issue. Instead, they chose to use an animated map from the television show. A quick call to the network would have clarified that it was private land.

Third, since the filming is on private land, does DLNR now feel that they are going to begin regulating what can be done on private land? Their concern was that there may have been illegal hunting at night. Was DLNR on site during filming to see the time the hunt took place and if the pig was alive? Again, this is a television show, and no one from the network was contacted by DLNR to clarify if any illegal activity took place. In fact, Governor Neil Abercrombie stated, “If we discover any laws or regulations have been broken we will vigorously pursue legal and/or criminal charges.” Is this a witch hunt? How can you discover if any laws were broken when you do not contact the network and decide to do your own investigation by watching an edited television show?

Finally, and most importantly, DLNR states that 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.” DLNR continues by stating that “the cultural insensitivity of the series is also a concern.”

But I believe the biggest and most important issue of “territorial hunting grounds” is DLNR’s plan to ban hunting within 4,800 acres of public forest located south of Hilo. This DLNR “land grab” is the biggest territory war that the hunters of the Big Island have ever faced. This “land grab” calls for installing 17 miles of fencing to keep pigs, goats and sheep out and will extend almost to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park boundary. The area would be closed to hunting as DLNR’s way of protecting the ecosystem from invasive species. If the land is truly held in the “public trust for the people” why are you taking away these hunters rights to gather on land that has been providing food for their families for generations? You are taking away these hunting grounds like a “thief in the night.” You claim that you are concerned about “cultural insensitivity”. Where is your cultural sensitivity to these hunters as you threaten the local culture by targeting one of its traditional food sources?

DLNR is a bully taking away rights, threatening cultural livelihood and even trying to censor what can be shown on television. To this I say, long live “American Jungle” for exposing the land grab issues DLNR was trying to hide and showing how hostile Hawaii is towards the filming industry.

If I had known “American Jungle” would have received this much attention from the DLNR, I would have made an accurate documentary showing the “inaccurate, offensive, and in some cases, potentially illegal” land grab issue that threatens these Big Island hunter’s way of life. This documentary would have exposed the DLNR’s land grab as the largest territory war that hunters of the Big Island have ever faced.

Hawaii State Critical of TV Program Misrepresenting Hunting in Hawaii – Investigation Launched Into Possible Law Violations While Filming

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.

Clans

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.”

DLNR and the Humane Society of the United States offer a reward of up to $5,000 for any violations of state conservation laws. To report violations, call 1-855-DLNR-TIP.

“American Jungle” – New Eight-Part TV Series Follows Hunting Clans on The Big Island

On the island paradise of Hawaii, thousands of acres of untamed jungle are home to wild beasts and the men who live off the land in the ancient ways of their ancestors. Generations of families have claimed, maintained and fought over their own sacred hunting trails. When the dry season comes, wild boar, goats, feral bulls and small game crisscross the island in search for water. These clans must do whatever it takes to protect their turf.

Click to read about the cast

Click to read about the cast

But in a land where traditions run deep and ancient spirits rule the mountains, hunting is about more than putting food on the table. It’s about respecting the family and revering the ancestors. AMERICAN JUNGLE, a new series on HISTORY, follows several tight-knit clans as they hunt the old way – with knives and spears – and battle for control of their territory. The eight-part series premieres Sunday, November 10 at 10 pm ET on HISTORY.

About the clans:

The powerful Spear Clan, descended from Hawaiian royalty, has hunted and preserved their trails for more than 150 years. The trails fell into decline and other clans saw opportunity. Their leader Scotty is determined to return the clan to its former power. Scotty turned his back on his family and traditions seven years ago and left for the mainland. Now he is back and seeking redemption.

The Rosa Clan survives entirely off of the land. Clan leader Tony was estranged for the past ten years, and has reconnected with his son Isaac, 19, to teach him the ways of his family. The clan is small, and if Isaac doesn’t learn, the family’s knowledge of the jungle will end with Tony. The Rosa’s chief rivals are the Correas. The clans began feuding nearly 40 years ago.

Pa, 67, is the leader of the Correa Clan. He descends from the legendary “Barefoot Hunter” from the island of Oahu. When Oahu became developed as a tourist destination, Pa moved the family to the Big Island and carved out his own trails. Game became the main source of food for his rapidly growing family. So keen were his hunting abilities that he brought home enough food to feed some 20 immediate family members. Now in his sunset years, he needs to make a hard decision – which of his sons will take his place.

Johnny Blaze is leader of the Blood Clan. The former college football star and his friends Eric and Kalei teamed up to learn the ways of the jungle. They are a band of outlaws who hunt all the trails in the belief that the jungle belongs to no one clan. Seldom seen by other clans, it is believed that the Bloods are mystically in touch with the spirits of the jungle and engage in strange rituals, such as drinking the blood of their kill.

The Cowboy Clan is led by Curly, a highly skilled horseman who possesses deadly precision with a lasso. He and his trusted partner Lionel are descendents of a long line of Californian-Mexican vaqueros (cowboys). They hunt the plains on horseback and like the Bloods, they don’t respect the idea of trails being owned.

Chewy and Prophet of the Ocean Clan are born and bred locals who don’t take kindly to intruders. Their behavior and alliances are completely unpredictable, changing their tactics to suit whatever the situation calls for. Most clans would rather keep the peace than to cross them.

Because they don’t own trails and are not respected on the island, the Outsiders are not a clan, but they aspire to be one. Big Joe, born in Oklahoma, learned the ways of the jungle from the local elders. He discovered early on that hunting means asking permission of the clans who claim ancestral heritage of the trails. Mark, born on the military base outside Hilo, learned the ways of the jungle from his father before they had a falling out. The pair realized that, as outsiders, they will always be at the mercy of the powerful clans unless they make a name for themselves.