UH Hilo Students and Professors Rescue Endangered Sea Turtle

Media Release:

University of Hawai‘i at Hilo students enrolled in the Marine Science (MARE) Summer Program were recently treated to a rare hands-on learning experience as they witnessed the real-life rescue of an endangered sea turtle at Punalu‘u.

George Balazs with the turtle at Punalu‘u

Wednesday, June 29, began routinely enough as the students, Professors Dr. Jason and Jennifer Turner, plus MARE staff John Coney and Jill Grotkin huddled with George Balazs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Marine Turtle Research Program to evaluate the health and fitness of Hawaiian green sea turtles (honu). However, their session was interrupted when Hawai‘i Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project Coordinator Will Seitz reported that a green sea turtle had inadvertently crawled into and became stuck in a freshwater pond at the site of the old Punalu‘u Village Restaurant.

The distressed animal turned out to be a critically endangered female Hawksbill sea turtle (honu‘ea); whose numbers total just over 100 nesting females. Dr. Turner and Balazs initially tried deploying a large net to surround the animal. That is until Dr. Turner felt something brush up against him.
“The turtle bumped into me right as we got into the water, then swam toward the other end of the pond,” Dr. Turner explained, “The second time I felt the turtle swim by I dove under, grabbed onto a hind flipper, and held on until the rest of the team could help. I couldn’t see the entire body due to the muddy water, but I could tell it was a big animal.”
It wasn’t until students and researchers managed to restrain the animal and place it on a scale that they understood the extent of their discovery. At 309-pounds, the female Hawksbill was one of the largest ever recorded. The animal was examined for injuries, measured, tagged, and then released into the ocean as visitors and beach-goers looked on and erupted into applause.
For Balazs, a world-renowned sea turtle expert, the episode had a touch of déjà vu. It was just over 11 years ago that Balazs, with the help of UH Hilo Professor Leon Hallacher and a group of university Marine Option Program students saved another female Hawksbill from the very same pond. “George was telling us the story of that Hawksbill as we were setting up, but we had no idea that history was about to repeat itself,” said Jennifer Turner.

Students and onlookers watch as the turtle is released into the ocean at Punalu‘u

The latest rescue is apparently known to observers, as she is believed to be one of an estimated 12 percent of Hawksbill females that utilize multiple beaches. The animal was seen nesting a few days ago at Kamehame, where she was first tagged in 2005. She was also spotted there in 2007 in addition to a site at Halape.

How she ended up in the freshwater pond remains an open question. Balazs believes the animal may have entered the pond during the March tsunami and remained there until her rescue. There are also reports that she crawled into the pond sometime this summer after attempting to nest on Punalu‘u beach, where a nesting turtle had been reported by the public weeks earlier.
What is certain is that for everyone involved, the rescue of a rare Hawaiian Hawksbill turtle was an educational experience they won’t soon forget and one that left quite an impression on the students. “Awesome,” said one student when asked how it felt to be involved in the rescue. “I’m seriously thinking of transferring here.”

Hawaii Police Department Recognizes New Recruits

Media Release:

Members of the Hawai’i Police Department’s 79th Recruit Class were recognized Friday (July 15) during ceremonies held at Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo.

79th HPD Recruit Class

The 79th Recruit Class—(bottom row): Joshua K. Pa, Kelsey K. Kobayashi, Bruce I. M. Parayno, Jensen X. Rodrigues, Chelsey W. Heidenfeldt, Officer Aaron Carvalho (Instructor), Vaughn S. Kelii, Brad L. Resureccion, Branden K. Watanabe, Amy C. Masuyama, (Middle Row): Wyatt K. Kaili-Leong, Peter P. Tourigny, Roland A. Kuamoo, Aaron M. Tanaka, Nicholas C. K. McDaniel, Hanalei S. Pagan (top row): Aaron K. Kaeo, Kelena D. Ho'okano, Keng C. Singleton, Dwayne E. Sluss, Derek Kenison Jr., Jonathan K. Kailiuli, Robert A. K. Ayau, Ernest B. K. Texeira.

The police recruits, who just completed 5 1/2 months of intensive training, will undergo four months of on-the-job field training with veteran police officers before they are qualified to work alone.

During Friday’s ceremony, class President Peter P. Tourigny said most of the recruits were born and raised on the Big Island but some members traveled from Oahu, Maui and as far as New Hampsiire to be here. Prior to entering the Police Department, he said, the recruits worked as school teachers, retail sales associates, farmers, armored truck drivers, college students, personal trainers, loss prevention agent, police dispatcher, corrections officer, former police officer and amateur dancer.

“I challenge each of you to wear your uniform with pride and remember that we are now held to a higher standard of living,” Tourigny said. “We must serve the community in a way that will never disgrace the honor or our badges.”

During the ceremony, three of the recruits received special recognition for their excellence in training. They were Branden K. Watanabe, who excelled in academic training, Vaughn S. Kelii, who excelled in physical fitness training, and Vice President Amy C. Masuyama, who excelled in firearms training.

The other members of the 79th Recruit Class are:

  • Robert A. K. Ayau
  • Chelsey W. Heidenfeldt (treasurer)
  • Kelena D. Ho’okano
  • Aaron K. Kaeo
  • Wyatt K. Kaili-Leong
  • Jonathan K. Kailiuli
  • Derek Kenison Jr.
  • Kelsey K. Kobayashi
  • Roland A. Kuamoo
  • Nicholas C. K. McDaniel
  • Joshua K. Pa
  • Hanalei S. Pagan
  • Bruce I. M. Parayno
  • Brad L. Resureccion
  • Jensen X. Rodrigues
  • Keng C. Singleton
  • Dwayne E. Sluss
  • Aaron M. Tanaka
  • Ernest B. K. Texeira.

Hawaii County Mass Transit Seeks Survey Participants

The Hawaii County Mass Transit Agency requests your assistance in completing the following surveys.

1. The purpose is to determine interest and feasibility of providing additional transportation service between Volcano Village and Hilo.

Click Here to go to Upper Puna survey

2. The transit agency has prepared a survey to gather data on interest, scheduling, and routing for bus service within Paradise Park.

Click here to go to the Paradise Park Survey

Please call the transit agency at 961-8744 if you have questions.