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Airbnb Chastised For Airing Commercial Featuring Tourist Touching Hawaiian Sea Turtle

December 27, 2017



Vacation rental company Airbnb recently aired a commercial on Facebook touting rental properties on Oahu, Hawaii, showing a visiting family who wanted to view sea turtles in their natural environment. In the video, the family’s Airbnb host gave the family directions where they could find the turtles sunning on the beach, according to Hawaii News Now.

The video, which has since been pulled by Airbnb, showed the family swimming with, and then in one instance, touching a sea turtle, which is against state and federal law. The clip sparked outrage with some citing Airbnb's lack of cultural awareness regarding sea turtles (or honu in Hawaiian) in Hawaii, let alone federal law in that all sea turtle species are protected by the Endangered Species Act, and touching them is illegal.

Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

The company has since issued an apology in which it "deeply regret the actions captured in this post and expects all hosts and visitors to respect local wildlife and apologizes for sharing a video that falls short of those standards. We will take steps to further educate our community on proper guidelines for interacting with local marine life."


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The green sea turtle is revered in Hawaiian culture. It is often referred to as the god Kanaloa, which would take the shape of a turtle when it went amongst the people of the islands. Other legends refer to Kailua, a green turtle who takes the shape of a young girl who would watch over the keiki, or children of Hawaii. A honu petroglyph has been found on the big island, which signifies the importance of this reptile in Hawaiian culture.

While there is no specific distance people are supposed to stay away from the Hawaiian green sea turtle, the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources website has the following guidelines posted:". . . getting close to these animals may constitute a federal or state violation if the animal is disturbed or if your action has the potential to disturb its natural behavioral patterns. NOAA and DLNR recommend, for your safety and the animals' protection, that everyone stay at least 150 feet from all marine mammals and sea turtles. If maintaining this distance isn't possible, keep safety in mind and move away from the animal as carefully as possible, avoiding sudden movements and other actions that might disturb the animal. For wildlife viewers, please enjoy from a distance - use binoculars and telephoto lenses to get the best views without disturbing the wildlife."

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