$25K theft at Big Island nature preserve

$25K theft at Big Island nature preserve

KAU, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Big Island police are investigating a crime at The Nature Conservancy's Kaiholena Preserve in Kau. Thieves stole more than $25,000 worth of equipment from the non-profit that takes of conservation land. The preserve spans 3,511 acres on the southeast side of Mauna Loa.

"It's upland koa and ohia forests so it's really important native forests, not only for its ecological value, but also for its watershed value," explained Mark Fox, acting executive director of The Nature Conservancy.

The organization spent years raising money to buy the equipment to manage invasive animals and control weeds.

"It's a sick, angering feeling, but also a feeling of unsafety and inability to do anything," said Fox.

At least two thieves forced their way through locked gates leading to a storage building early Monday morning.

"They removed the chains on these gates. Then our storage facility has doors that were locked and it appears they hooked something to those doors and literally ripped them off the hinges" Fox said.

The stolen items include chainsaws, weed whackers, a 2009 Troy Flatbed trailer, a 2009 Honda utility terrain vehicle, and a green ATV 500 belonging to a Conservancy contractor.

"Our contractor that's been helping us up there was headed up the ranch road to go work and saw a truck coming down with our trailer and our ATV on the back, and his ATV following," said Fox.

The suspects were in a black 1996 to 2000 Toyota pickup that headed toward Pahala.

About a year ago, thieves stole $1,500 worth of fencing installed by volunteers.

The Nature Conservancy is offering a reward for information leading to the return of the stolen items. Anyone with information is asked to call the Kau Police Station at (808) 939-2520.

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