Authors seek to protect the controversial coqui frog

Published: Dec. 22, 2008 at 8:15 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2008 at 8:42 PM HST
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By Stephanie Lum - bio | email

HILO, Hawaii (KHNL) - The coqui tree frog population continues to grow at a rapid rate in the islands. Years ago, they were brought to Hawaii by mistake from Puerto Rico. While many want to silence them once and for all, a group of people on the Big Island want to protect them.

They're about the size of your thumb and very hard to find, but you can definitely hear them.

It's their distinct chirping that's earned the coqui Frog a bad reputation in Hawaii. Millions of dollars have been spent to wipe them out. But on a parcel of land in Hilo, they're safe. It's a coqui Frog sanctuary on the big island run by Soma Grismaijer, one of the few fighting to keep this tiny critter around.

"We've lived with them for 8 years and we think they're the best thing to happen to Hawaii. They're a natural pest control they eat mosquitoes, fire ants and termites," said Grismaijer.

Other than the sound they make, Grismaijer believes little is known about the coqui.

"Calling them invasive when it's not proven so and going off tangent spending millions of dollars is something that should not be done," said Grismaijer.

"You start out having bad ideas then you're going to have a pre-determined feeling about them before even hearing them," said Sydney Singer.

Singer and Grismaijer express their views about the coqui in a book called "Panic in Paradise"; calling mass extermination efforts, hysteria.

"Once we start attacking something like that especially if it's already here in the environment, which the coquis are, you cannot get rid of them unless you destroy the environment with them," said Grismaijer.

Love them or hate them, the tiny coqui remains at the center of a very big debate.

Grismaijer and Singer are the minority in this battle over the coqui Frog.  Here on Oahu, a task force has recently been formed to stop the spread of coquis in Kailua and Hawaii Kai.