COURTESY HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Offerings like this cooked piglet with fruit are what Hawaii Volcanoes National Park officials hope to deter the public from leaving in an educational program starting tomorrow. CLICK FOR LARGE
Park: Gifts to Pele rot at volcano's rim
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK » A ranger looked in the cardboard box left at Kilauea volcano's summit area and found a whole, cooked piglet surrounded by a papaya, an orange, an apple and a plastic container with poi, all topped with a finely crafted lei.
The ranger was not surprised. This kind of thing, enough food for a small family, left in a box in February as an offering to the volcano, happens "regularly," said Hawaii Volcanoes spokeswoman Mardie Lane.
The ranger also was not happy. Leaving offerings like this is against federal law, Lane said.
Starting tomorrow, the park will begin a program called Leave No Traces, designed to educate people that offerings are not appropriate.
Volunteers from the Expedia travel company, working with the park, will pick up trash and inappropriate offerings, Lane said.
Many Hawaiians believe that Kilauea's summit area is wahi kapu, a sacred area, a park statement said.
Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando expressed the park's view on how to respect this sacredness. "How appropriate that we honor (Hawaiians') long-held tradition of stewardship and offer as our greatest gift the preservation of this land at its most pristine," she said.
The alternative is filth, park officials contend.
"The accumulation of rotting food and foliage attracts rats, flies, ants and cockroaches," a park statement said. The rotting offerings also pose a hazard to the endangered nene goose. "Raw rice and beans, fruit, meat and other food can sicken and kill nene," the statement said.
About 45 pounds of rotting food and other items are removed each week. Other offerings include flowers, bottles, money, incense, candles and crystals.
People also burn "hell" bank notes, fake money which in Chinese culture is meant to aid people in the afterlife. Such fires are illegal, the park said.