Friday, March 29, 2002

Poisonous frog
caught in Maui
residential area

Its South American cousins
secrete a venom used in darts

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> An alien frog related to species that secrete the poison used by native South Americans to make hunting darts has been found in a residential area of Wailuku.

State wildlife biologist Fern Duvall said the bright green and black poison dart frog was found Wednesday morning by retired state forester Wesley Wong and his daughter Shelley.

The two were walking along Vineyard Street in Wailuku between Central and Market streets when she saw the frog, which is smaller than a quarter. Wong used a container to capture the frog, whose scientific name is Dendrobates auratus.

Duvall said it is the first time a poison dart frog has been captured on Maui, although there have been sightings reported at the Wailuku Library and Iao Valley.

Until now, there have been two known colonies on Oahu, one in Manoa Valley and the other in Waiahole-Waikane, scientists say.

Bishop Museum official Carla Kishinami said the poison dart frog found in Hawaii is not as toxic as some related species.

But they are toxic enough that officials are advising people to refrain from touching them. Those coming in contact with a poison dart frog are advised to wash their hands to remove the toxins.

Duvall is asking Maui residents to report the location of the poison dart frogs to the state. He said officials will capture the frogs and also plot the location of the sighting.

"We'd like to know how widespread they are," Duvall said.

The captured frog was turned over to state agricultural officials for further examination yesterday.

About 206 poison dart frogs, taken from a Pacific island off Panama, were introduced in Upper Manoa Valley in 1932 by the Territory of Hawaii to eat mosquitos, according to Sean McKeown in "A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians in the Hawaiian Islands."

Neil Reimer, the state plant quarantine manager, said the importation of the poison dart frog is restricted in Hawaii. "As a general principle, no one can bring them in," Reimer said.

Kishinami said the poison dart frogs pose an environmental threat since they could reduce the number of native insects and affect the supply of food for native birds, if their population grows significantly.

Sightings of poison dart frogs on Maui may be reported to Duvall at 873-3502.

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