Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Prep school teens were accused of massacring protected birds. Did they get off too easy?"

State conservation officers would later determine that more than a dozen birds had been bloodied and dismembered with a bat, a machete and a pellet gun. Nearby, several smashed eggs were scattered about the craggy, lava rock coast.

That gruesome sight in December 2015 soon became a crime scene, one that eventually implicated six students and recent graduates of a prestigious Honolulu prep school whose alumni include former president Barack Obama. While on a camping trip the night before the hiker’s arrival, authorities alleged, the boys and young men had hiked to the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve and mercilessly slaughtered at least 15 Laysan albatrosses, federally protected birds that have been the focus of a 26-year-long conservation effort. Nearly a dozen of their eggs were crushed; six other eggs failed to hatch due to the death of a parent.

The night of destruction set conservation efforts back nearly a decade and caused more than $200,000 in damage, state and federal investigators say.


In Hawaii, the albatross killings were particularly shocking because they implicated privileged young men who allegedly committed the crime for the fun of it — and who should have known better. All are former classmates from Punahou School, where the eighth-grade curriculum includes a field trip to one of the world’s best-studied albatross breeding colonies at Ka‘ena Point. That the accused were privy to the importance of the remote site as a safety zone for the vulnerable species has deepened public outrage over the assault.