MOLOKAI, HAWAII (KHON2) – Molokai continues to grapple with an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis. The island-wide quarantine for livestock issued in April by the Department of Agriculture remains in effect.

Still many ranchers and lawmakers, like Sen. Lynn DeCoite (D) who represents Molokai, Lanai and parts of East Maui, fear if bTB were to spread outside of Molokai it could devastate the cattle industry.

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“It’s very serious because it puts a black eye over the ranching industry here on Molokai,” DeCoite said.

The first cases were found between June 2021 and March of this year.

During that time, at least 242 animals have been put down from six different herds in Central and West Molokai. Twenty-one animals tested positive so far.

Molokai only counts for a small percentage of the state’s local supply of beef.

But Taylor Kellerman, the Kualoa Ranch director of diversified agriculture and land stewardship, said every little bit counts because raising cattle is costly and takes years till they are ready to harvest.

“Look at the state of ranching. When you look at the state of food production, agriculture in general,” Kellerman said. “Margins are small and challenges are large so any sort of impact whether small or large — or even something that may even be on another island — can always kind of have that ripple effect, one we need to be very concerned about.”

The state veterinary program manager for animal disease control said this is the worst outbreak he’s seen in decades.

Bovine tuberculosis is considered endemic on Molokai after several large outbreaks on the east side of the island in the 1940s, 80s and 90s.

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A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said the Department of Land and Natural Resources will start assisting in the collection of wild game samples, to ensure it hasn’t spread to Molokai’s axis deer population.