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'Ignorance of the Law is Not a Defense,' Says DLNR Enforcement Chief

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources last week cited a tourist from Georgia for lifting a sea turtle out of the water by its shell at Kaʻanapali, Maui.

He put it back in the water immediately after people yelled at him. He apologized and said he did not know it was illegal.

"Ignorance of the law has never been a good defense," said Jason Redulla, DLNR Enforcement Chief.

Physically interacting with turtles and monk seals is prohibited and protected under state and federal laws.

They are endangered species, and touching them can potentially alter their natural behaviors — putting them at higher risk.

"We’re just hoping that people will give our native wildlife here in Hawaiʻi the due respect they deserve," Redulla told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "You wouldn’t go to Yellowstone and pet a bear, so please don’t come to Hawaiʻi and think that it’s okay to treat our wildlife with any less respect."

Sightings of wildlife harassment can be reported through the DLNRTip app, or by calling 808-643-DLNR (3567). The information must contain identifiable details to be actionable.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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