While the Hawaiian government continues its coqui cleansing, some voices are being raised on those islands urging residents to adopt a live-and-let- live policy toward the little tree frog, whose night song soothes Puerto Ricans and maddens the Aloha State.
Both the state and federal governments have joined forces to try to rid the Pacific paradise of the Caribbean intruders. But efforts also have begun, with the recent opening on the Big Island of the Hawaiian Coqui Frog Sanctuary and Nature Preserve, to have Hawaiians take the
little chirpers to their hearts, as Puerto Ricans have done.
The local environmentalists behind the project want visitors to "experience coquis and listen to their sunset serenades."
The sanctuary founders medical anthropologists Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer also play up the tourism potential of the coqui.
"There are millions of frog lovers throughout the world," said Singer in a recent interview. "Instead of spending millions each year to burn frogs to death by spraying acid into the forests, Hawaii can be making millions each year by promoting our coquis."
Still, as this 67-acre nature preserve hopes to attract tourists to the song of the little frog there will be a few "coqui cottages" for overnight stays the state government is gearing up to spend for the second year another $2 million in efforts to make the state coqui-free.
The preferred method of killing is through chemical spraying, but residents are also urged to capture the critters so they could be cooked to death in pots or iced in freezers, presumably with no cryonics procedure in mind. The U.S. Department of Agriculture' s Wildlife Services also is involved in the coqui elimination plan.
The state has officially declared the little guys with the big voices agricultural pests, an invasive species that officials say is "drastically changing the food web for birds and native insects" by gobbling up mosquitoes, termites, spiders, ants and, seemingly most damaging, upsetting the nighttime tranquility of the resident humans.
"The species' shrill, incessant mating calls, compounded by the animal's high population densities, shatter the peace and quiet of residents and visitors alike," said Bill Kenoi, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim of Hawaii's Big Island. "It is clear that coqui infestations present a serious threat to the quality of life for our island residents," Kenoi said in an Hawaii County Newsletter.
Mindy Wilkinson, the state's invasive species coordinator, noted that while the coqui population of Puerto Rico appears in decline, as island scientists have noted, the number has exploded in Hawaii. There are up to three times higher density of coquis in Hawaii than in Puerto Rico, according to the experts.
The 70-decibal song of the coqui is just something that Hawaii residents can't get used to, Wilkinson said. "We don't have that level of sound," she said.
Utah State professor and ecologist Karen Beard, who did coqui studies in both Hawaii and Puerto Rico, noted that there aren't as many coqui predators (other than human) in Hawaii as on the island, where presumably enough rats and mongooses keep the population in control.
Some folks, she noted, move to Hawaii specifically to "get away from noises" and find the sound of the coqui, or thousands of coquis, distressing. "It's just what you're used to," she said.
*Source: Scripps Howard News Service
Coqui of Puerto Rico http://www.vineland.org/history/pr_festival/coqui.htm
Endangered Species of Puerto Rico