Residents leap into action to battle coqui in Hawaii Kai

Malia Zimmerman
Malia Zimmerman
Rep. Gene Ward
Rep. Gene Ward
Domingo Carvalho
Domingo Carvalho
Chelsea Arnott
Chelsea Arnott

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HAWAII KAI (KHNL) - It's a distinct mating call that's attracting a lot of attention, this time in East Oahu, where residents have launched a movement to keep the coqui frog from multiplying out of control.

For years, the Big Island has been struggling with coqui tree frogs. It's not as bad on Oahu, but in Hawaii Kai, the creatures are starting to creep into neighborhoods.

During a town hall meeting Monday night at Hahaione Elementary School, community members addressed the growing problem.

Residents say the small creature, is causing big problems. They say it threatens real estate, and native species. One landscaping company has even had to temporarily shut down.

The male coqui's piercing two-note whistle can reach up to 90 decibals at a distance of just one foot. The state says the tiny creature, just slightly larger than a quarter, has lungs powerful enough to be as loud as a lawn mower.

"I didn't sleep for three nights in a row because of the chirping," said Malia Zimmerman, a Hawaii Kai resident.

"We feel that the threat of this sound taking over is going to be so bad, that we've got to put a stop to it now," said Representative Gene Ward, who represents Hawaii Kai.

Coqui flare-ups have triggered community leaders to create a task force, to protect the quality of life as well as Hawaii Kai's real estate.

"If you buy and sell, you have to declare if you have coqui or no coqui. It's become that serious," said Rep. Ward.

"I've heard of other instances on the Big Island where people have actually backed out of some of these real estate transactions because of these coqui frogs," said Domingo Carvalho of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

The state says the most recent coqui case in Hawaii Kai forced a landscaping company to temporarily shut down.

"What they ended up doing was salvaging whatever plants are of value and those were already treated. The remaining plants left on site were treated with citric acid," said Carvalho.

The coqui isn't poisonous.

"They're non-toxic. We've had dares by individuals who've taken part in eating one," said Carvalho.

But it is an invasive species that threatens native ones.

"Anything edible that gets into its path, it'll basically eat. That includes invasive insects that we have but also native insects that are already endangered," said Chelsea Arnott, a member of the Oahu Invasive Species Committee.

The state says coqui invasions are few and far between on Oahu, but they're enough for neighbors to leap into action.

If you find coqui in your plants, you can mix citric acid powder with a gallon of water, spray the plant, leave it on for 45 minutes, then rinse the plant.

But make sure it is a coqui frog first, by checking in with the Department of Agriculture.

We've included a link to their website.