The Endless Battle Against Invaders!

Mar 30, 2018 | General Information

We all know that Hawaii is a very unique place. In addition to its volcanic origin and diversity of beauty and attractions, the islands attract visitors because of their geographic isolation. In spite of that isolation, over a very long period of time a remarkable amount of plant and animal species arrived in the islands, mostly without human assistance. Floating on waves, blown by winds, carried by birds, what we refer to as “native species” lived in splendid isolation in the islands through more than 70 million years of volcanic history.

Of course over that timeless time Hawaii’s “native species” evolved and spawned today’s “native species” often found nowhere else in the world. The evolution and survival of these “native species” benefited from the absence of competitive, carnivorous and toxic species. But the negative side of Hawaii’s benign environment and not being forced to defend themselves against predators and other threats is that “native species” lost or didn’t acquire sufficient defensive mechanisms.

As humans populated the world and Hawaii, they moved species from one place to another and into the Hawaiian ecosystem. Consequently species such as coqui frogs arrived and became one of Hawaii’s many “invasive species.” When billionaire Larry Ellison bought the island of Lanai in 2012, fulfilling a life-long dream, he knew little about coqui frogs and the fact that they also had been attracted to his island oasis. But his management team knew enough about coqui frogs to spring into action when just a single male coqui frog, roughly the size of a coin, was spotted and captured. Residents of Lanai were urged to report if they saw even one – or heard the high-pitched sound – of these unwanted and unwelcomed amphibians.

Residents of the Aloha State are famous for their welcoming spirit. But not for coqui frogs and other invasive species like the giant Bingabing tree. Already well established on Oahu and the Big Island, recently it has been found on Kauai. Its huge leaves form dense thickets that can shade and choke out any surrounding plants. Native to the Philippines, they grow up to 30 feet high and spread quickly through forests, preventing the growth of other plants.

People who live and work in the Aloha State are warm and welcoming but when it comes to threats of “invasive species” they are totally unfriendly. Kauai, for example, has a Kauai Invasive Species Committee committed to preserving the beloved diversity of the Garden Island and preventing Bingabing trees from spreading. Visitors to Kauai may see crews chopping down trees and wonder what that’s all about. It’s Bingabing trees being cut down.

The State of Hawaii has an Invasive Species Council, a cabinet-level governmental authority working on prevention, control, technology and other resources for the eradication of a mind-boggling array of nature’s pesky and destructive creatures in the state, like coqui and also little fire ants that can infest beach parks and other places. The Council also is working on eradication of: mongoose that steal the eggs of Hawaii’s state bird and sea turtles and cause a great deal of damage around the state every year; Veiled Chameleon that eat native Hawaiian birds, insects, plants and flowers; Apple Snails that damage farmer’s crops and eat the food of native birds; and snakes that not only consume native forest birds and lizards but can cause power outages by climbing up electrical wires and boxes.

In sum, mostly invisible to visitors, Hawaii’s authorities, the University of Hawaii, Invasive Species Committees, entire neighborhoods and residents on each island year-round are working hard at, and doing a great job of, keeping Hawaii beautiful, safe, productive and attractive. All of these unrelenting efforts for maintaining the Hawaiian paradise are vastly appreciated by both residents, the state’s tourism industry and those of us busily engaged in bringing visitors, clients and guests to the islands.