Some species of tree frog may be sold
I saw green tree frogs for sale at the mall pet store. How can they do that? I thought foreign species were not supposed to be sold in case they got free.
Answer: We answered a similar question four years ago ("Kokua Line," Oct. 8, 2001), but with so much attention focused on coqui frogs and other alien species invading the islands, it is confusing as to what's allowed in and what's not.
Green tree frogs are among the species on the state Department of Agriculture's "conditionally approved" list of animals allowed into Hawaii. Creatures on that list require only an import permit.
Leopard frogs, which many schools bring in for science classes, also are on the conditionally approved list, noted Domingo Cravalho, the department's invertebrate and aquatic biota specialist.
However, Cuban tree frogs, which can grow to over 5 inches and eat other amphibians and invertebrates, are "strictly restricted." Last fall, several of these frogs were found in shipments of cut flowers and produce, as well as in shipments of nonagricultural equipment. Luckily, workers were informed enough to report the creatures, Cravalho said.
Under state law, pet shops, distributors or wholesalers need to obtain a permit to bring in a conditionally approved animal. They then can resell it to other businesses or consumers.
"It is the original permittee's responsibility to inform all of their clienteles about the dangers of releasing these animals into the wild," Cravalho said. "Every effort is supposed to be made by the original importer to educate ... the person who buys it, whether it be at the wholesale or retail levels, that they are not to release these animals into the environment ... and that they need to be contained at all times."
Asked what control there is after such an animal is sold, Cravalho acknowledged that is a valid concern.
"It's an ongoing effort to educate these pet owners that they should not be releasing their animals into the environment," he said.
Basically, animals on the conditionally approved list of entry are considered to "pose the least risk," he explained. If they are released, "they may have a lesser chance of establishing in our environment and becoming a pest themselves."
A few years ago, the department overhauled its list of amphibians and reptiles that are allowed in for the pet resale trade. Subtropical or tropical species that posed a risk of establishment in the environment were "bumped" into restricted categories of entry.
"So those animals that were once allowed in for the pet trade were no longer allowed in," Cravalho said.
Green tree frogs continue to be allowed, but "if you talk to certain biologists, they feel that all amphibians potentially are a problem for Hawaii," he added. "So we may revisit these listings of frogs at a later time."
Call the state pest hot line at 586-PEST (7378) with questions or concerns.
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