State urges community to prevent coqui cabana on Oahu

State urges community to prevent coqui cabana on Oahu

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

MANOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - What's that sound? You don't have to live in Hilo to hear that tell-tale chirp.

Coqui frogs have been heard in neighborhoods all over Oahu.

They aren't taking over just yet but state ag officials want families to be on guard.

On Monday night, the Department of Agriculture held a community meeting in Manoa,

and brought three coqui frogs to show people at Manoa Elementary's cafeteria just how they look like. They're not that much bigger than a quarter but it's their powerful lungs that pose a threat to Hawaii.

It's a distinct mating call that has the state urging residents to listen up.

"When I found out on the news that one lone coqui frog was caught I thought oh my gosh, it's here," said Lynn Muramaru, a Manoa resident at the meeting.

It's been two months since then, but Manoa residents are still on alert and want to make sure an infestation does not develop in their neighborhood.

At Manoa Elementary's cafeteria, the State Agriculture Department showed folks how to track coqui.

Why the concern?

"There's so many invasive species in Hawaii and it's really devastating on the indigenous population, birds and insects," said Jessica Honbo, a Manoa resident.

Coqui is native to Puerto Rico.

It has no natural predators in Hawaii.

The frog threatens native insects and plants and competes for food with native birds.

"About a year ago I found a frog and I brought it in because I thought it was a coqui frog," said Honbo.

But it turned out to be a greenhouse frog. It's a common mistake.

The big difference - coqui toes look like suction-cups. The greenhouse has claw like toes.

Coqui first arrived on Maui in 1988, then spread to the Big Island in the early 90's. Within less than 10 years, a coqui outbreak hit.

Will Oahu see the same fate as the Big Island?

The state says no.

"Oahu people would not take it and want something to be done," said Domingo Cravalho, Inspection and Compliance Section Chief with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Cravalho says there's been a high interest among the communities all over Oahu to learn how to prevent coqui from spreading out of control.

The state is monitoring four nurseries, where coqui have been found - one on the North Shore, one in Hawaii Kai, and two in Waimanalo.

Cravalho says the coqui watch on Oahu will be lifelong.

"I think a person can end his career on doing coqui frog," he said.

But the key to keeping the shrieking frog under control, is help from the community.

If you think you may have a coqui frog in your backyard or anywhere in your neighborhood, the state urges you to call the PEST hotline at 643-PEST, or 643-7378.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.