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Retired physician donates 37-acre South Kona property to The Nature Conservancy

Updated: 
July 22, 2014 - 4:45pm

Retired Hawaiian physician Dr. Charman Akina has donated to The Nature Conservancy 37 acres of South Kona native forest that has never been cleared or grazed.

The parcel is near the conservancy’s 8,081-acre Kona Hema Preserve and the state’s South Kona Forest Reserve. It contains diverse native plants and wildlife. The Nature Conservancy will manage the property as part of its Kona Hema Preserve.

Akina, who now divides his time between homes in Honolulu and Hilo, also plans to donate a second parcel of 135 acres, which contains the conservancy’s legal access to its Kona Hema properties. That second parcel will make the 37-acre parcel contiguous to Kona Hema Preserve and the South Kona Forest Reserve.

“The property is fenced to exclude cattle and has never been bulldozed or used for grazing, which is highly unusual for a privately held, agriculture-zoned parcel in the South Kona area,” said Jody Kaulukukui, the conservancy’s director of Land Protection.

Akina first became interested in the two parcels in the early 1970s when the land was being sub-divided for development.

“I went down there and found this property that had beautiful trees on it,” he said. “When I found out it would be sold for development, I stepped in and later bought it. I wanted to save it from the bulldozer.”

After The Nature Conservancy acquired 4,000 acres next door at Honomalino in 1999 — the first of three adjoining parcels that make up its Kona Hema Preserve — Akina decided to donate the land to conservation.

“It was a real natural,” he said. “The land was never grazed or cleared. The original growth is still there. You can still see what the original forest was like.”

The land is native forest that is dry with seasonal moderate moisture, and contains pockets of native vegetation but also invasive weeds and feral pigs.

Native birds in the area include the iiwi, apapane, elepaio and amakihi. Surveys have also located native lacewings and Kamehameha butterflies. The National Audubon Society rates Kona forests as A-1 Globally Significant Important Bird Areas.

“The primary conservation objective is to provide a buffer to the existing Kona Hema Preserve, to protect rare and endangered plants, and to provide additional habitat for forest bird species found in the area,” Kaulukukui said.