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DLNR News Release: CLIFF DWELLERS OF KAUA‘I…and the people who hang with them!

Posted on Sep 27, 2021 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

(HONOLULU) – Imagine your job is hanging 300 feet on a thin rope, on nearly vertical cliffs, in Waimea Canyon on Kaua‘i. This is precisely what Adam Williams, a botanist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), and Scott Heintzman with the state’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program (PEPP) do on a regular basis.

Their work is center of a new television documentary, Cliff Dwellers of Kaua‘i…and the people who hang with them! premiering this Saturday (Oct. 2, 2021) on KHON2 at 7:00 p.m.

The pair of climbers search for rare and endangered native plants, clinging to life on the steep canyon walls. Before they rappel down, they’ve spent previous time in the field using binoculars, spotting scopes, and drone images to home in on their ultimate targets.

More than 250 native plants in Hawai‘i are close to extinction in their wild habitats, and the documentary traces efforts underway to save them, by collecting cuttings or seeds and getting them into seed banks for propagation and species survival.

The program also details the value of drones in identifying locations to search. As Ben Nyberg, a drone operator with the National Tropical Botanical Garden, commented, “We have a grant from National Geographic to try and develop drones for actual seed collecting.”

Another segment of the program chronicles the work of PEPP, which has teams on all the Main Hawaiian Islands, also searching for the last remaining individuals of some species. PEPP workers have enjoyed great success in out-planting varieties propagated from seeds in nurseries, and in one example have been able to plant 75 new plants of a species that was down to three individuals in their natural habitat.

The television special showcases stunning aerial images captured from drones and helicopters and it features slack-key music from Kawika Kahiapo, Jack Johnson, and Dennis Kamakahi.

In addition to Saturday’s debut, the special will be broadcast on KHON sister stations and live streamed:

  • Sunday, Oct. 3rd at 8:30 p.m. on KHII
  • Saturday, Oct. 9th at 6:30 p.m. on Hawai‘i’s CW

Following the initial airing this Saturday it can also be viewed at: 

Funding for the broadcasts was provided by the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and by DOFAW.  David Smith, DOFAW Administrator said, “This program depicts truly world-class conservation management, reporting, and partnerships.”

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)

HD video – Cliff Dwellers of Kaua‘i…and the people who hang with them! program clips: 

Photographs – Cliff Dwellers of Kaua‘i, spotting & drone work (7-27-21):

Photographs – Cliff Dwellers of Kaua‘i, Waimea Canyon rappelling & drone operations (4-27-21):

Media Contact: 

Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager

(808) 587-0396

[email protected]