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Coqui Frogs Invade Hawaii

2002-5-30

This is the VOA SpecialEnglish ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Experts say the American state of Hawaii has been invaded by asmall frog called the coqui (ko-KEE). There may be millions of thesmall frogs in Hawaii. However, they do not belong there. They arenormally found in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and in thesoutheastern United States. The coqui frogs are harming Hawaii'senvironment. And the extremely loud noise they make is causingproblems for Hawaiian citizens and visitors.

The coqui invaders arrived inHawaii about ten years ago. They were believed to have been broughtin accidentally in shipments of plants from Puerto Rico or Florida.Their numbers have sharply increased. They have quickly spreadaround the Hawaiian Islands hidden in plants.

The coqui is a brown frog about five centimeters long. During theday, the frogs hide in wet protected areas, such as under plantleaves. At night, the frogs move onto trees to feed, call to femalesand mate.

In their native Puerto Rico, local people celebrate coqui frogs.But in Hawaii, the foreign frog has been condemned as a harmfulanimal.

The coqui frogs are a major threat to Hawaii's environmentalsystem. The frogs eat thousands of insects every night. Theseinsects are important for the reproduction of plants. The insectsalso are important food for Hawaii's native, rare birds.

The frogs also are affecting the tourism industry in Hawaii.Increasing numbers of hotels, visitors and local people haveprotested about the loud calls made by male coqui frogs to femalefrogs. At night, the noise often makes it difficult for people tosleep. The mating call of the male coqui sounds like: "Ko-Kee!Ko-Kee!" That is how they got their name.

The frogs do not have any natural enemies in Hawaii to reducetheir population size. The warm weather permits them to lay eggs allyear long.There are many efforts in Hawaii designed to stop thespread of the coqui. It is a crime to transport, sell or release thefrogs there.

The Hawaiian Department of Agriculture is trying to find aneffective chemical that can be safely used to kill the frogs. Fornow, the frogs may only be captured by hand. The Hawaiian Departmentof Agriculture says the greatest threat to the economy andenvironment of the state is from harmful invasive species, like thecoqui.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written byCynthia Kirk.