Gathering Place
Sydney Ross Singer

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Coqui does not deserve
such fear and loathing

Before you jump to the wrong conclusion about the coquis, you should know that the entire anti-coqui agenda has been a carefully planned smear campaign. Fraudulent and exaggerated claims against the frogs have generated hate and intolerance to justify funding for a frog war. As a result of anti-coqui propaganda, the state is nearly hysterical with fear and loathing for the frogs. Prejudice and corruption have replaced reason. This is the mindset for a lynching, not for sound, unbiased, scientifically supported environmental policy.

When "experts" claimed nothing would kill coquis except caffeine, they did not disclose that the University of Hawaii owns the patent on the caffeine gene, extracted from coffee. This patent was issued in 1999, the same year the frog "crisis" began. If the Environment Protection Agency approved the use of caffeine as a pesticide, the value of this patent would have increased, along with the stock value of Integrated Coffee Technologies, Inc., sole licensee for the use of the gene, and run by an ex-dean from the university. After the EPA discovered this conflict of interest, they refused to renew the permit to test caffeine in Hawaii. The coqui killers then rediscovered citric acid, which had been used in the mid-1990s to kill frogs at the Honolulu Zoo.

Federal funding earmarked for coqui control was withdrawn when the conflicts and corruption became apparent.

The fact is, there is a silent majority of people in Hawaii who like coquis. Why?

Coquis are a natural form of pest control. One man told us that he didn't like coquis until he saw one eating a cockroach. Coquis also eat termites, stinging caterpillars and the notorious fire ants. People who live with coquis soon notice that mosquito populations are down, and they need fewer, or no, pesticides on their gardens or fruit trees.

Many people also love the coquis' sound at night, which drowns out the noise of traffic, barking dogs and noisy neighbors. And many find the chirping a soothing sound to sleep with. Recordings of coquis are sold as a sleep aid.

But, clearly, music is in the ear of the beholder, and some people do not like the sound of the coquis. Some people also do not like the sound of crickets, songbirds or other sounds of nature. For these people, there is the option to control coquis with appropriate control measures. However, efforts to control the coquis will be ongoing, since they are virtually impossible to eradicate. And these efforts are dangerous to humans, pets and plants. Coqui control now involves the experimental use of calcium hydroxide, commonly referred to as hydrated lime, which can cause irreversible eye damage and skin burns, as well as death from inhalation. This substance, as well as citric acid, also will kill plants, beneficial insects, geckoes and other lizards, and will alter the pH of the soil and the soil microflora.

It is ironic that frogs are dying worldwide because of pollution and development, while in Hawaii environmental extremists and exterminators are busy polluting and bulldozing the environment, trying to kill frogs. Really noxious pests, such as fire ants and stinging caterpillers (which coquis eat!) are spreading throughout the islands, while the public is distracted by this absurd, unwinnable frog war.

Coqui control will not only waste state and county funds. It will show that Hawaii is open game for environmental charlatans who can create a panic to pick the public purse.

Maybe it's time to accept that the coqui is now part of the Hawaii environment. The solution is far worse than the problem.

Sydney Ross Singer, a biologist, is co-author of "Panic
in Paradise: Invasive Species Hysteria and the Hawaiian Coqui
Frog War" and the director of C.H.I.R.P. (Coqui Hawaiian
Integration and Reeducation Project). He lives on a rainforest
preserve on the Big Island.

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