By Jan TenBruggencate
Ah, the wonders of living in rural Hawai‘i.
Much has been written about the invasive species crisis in the Islands.
Some invaders go after the environment, like the Argentine ants that attack populations of pollinators of native plants. And there are ones that go after us economically, like the apple snails that munch on taro crops, and mongooses go after eggs of all kinds of birds including domestic chickens.
And, of course, there are all the critters that directly impact our lives in the Hawaiian Islands. On Hawai‘i Island, coqui frogs sing through the night, disrupting the sleep of thousands of island residents. Pestiferous little fire ants are stinging folks on Hawai‘i Island, Maui, O‘ahu and parts of Kaua‘i.
Last night, as I write this, was a particularly sleepless one for me on Kaua‘i.
At midnight, I was awakened by the grunting of feral pigs, rooting in my lawn. I ran outside and chased them back into the neighboring forest. Pigs can destroy a domestic yard as they churn up the sod and the garden.
An hour later, there was a strange sound of activity on the concrete deck just outside the house. I got up again, and this time chased away five white Muscovy ducks — apparently fugitives from some nearby farm.
They left as evidence of their passing dark piles of bird poop. One had apparently been eating Java plum, and its evidence was a deep purple stain in the concrete after I had washed away the mess.
A few minutes later, I got up again to the yowling of two feral cats, engaged in a deep and apparently serious disagreement. In the darkness, I chased the cats off the lawn, but they continued their raucous caucus some distance away.
A couple of hours later, as dawn neared, the neighborhood feral roosters began their daily ceremony, one crowing in succession to the next. They were eventually nearly drowned out by the dawn chorus of mynahs, doves, sparrows and the rest of the birds perching in the trees.
It seems hardly possible at this point to gain control over many of these invasive species, much less remove them entirely from the local environment. Since 2003, the Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council has had the job of coordinating the anti-invasives effort between government agencies, nonprofits and other initiatives.
Its Hawai‘i Interagency Biosecurity Plan 2017–2027 makes the point that even though some of the stuff already loose in our environment is bad, there’s even worse stuff still out there, threatening. Such as the brown tree snake, and the red imported fire ant.
The plan calls for working to prevent dangerous invasive species from heading to Hawai‘i, stopping at the airports and harbors those that do get here, and then doing something about ones that get past those safeguards.
It’s in our best interest to support their work. For many of us, consistently sound nights’ sleep depends on their success.
- Jan TenBruggencate is a Kaua‘i based writer and communications consultant.