We're all invasive species, so leave the coqui alone
WHY all the hysteria about the coqui frogs? You'd think they were invaders from outer space! They're only from Puerto Rico. I know, the battle cry is, "Invasive species! Not native to Hawaii!" -- but, just to be accurate, let's admit that the Hawaiian Islands began as molten lava; critters of all sorts have been coming here from elsewhere ever since. And it seems especially ludicrous that the most invasive species of all, Homo sapiens, is pointing the finger at others.
The massacre of the coquis is no different from our deliberate extinction of hundreds of American Indian tribes, or the attempted extinctions of Jews or Gypsies, or the "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans or among tribes in Africa. We have this nasty habit of killing anyone we don't happen to like.
What's not to like about coqui frogs? "They're so noisy!" And "They eat too many insects!" Well, to some of us, their song is music (and I never thought I would hear people complain about fewer insects). They say the coquis are threatening our "native" bird populations, by eating their food supply. But is there really any evidence of this? In fact, the coquis themselves have become food for some bird species.
I've not heard of bird species going extinct in Puerto Rico because of the coquis -- which, despite the people's love for them, are being extinguished there also (by destruction of habitat and food supply). In fact, two species of coqui are already extinct. (At www.elboricua.com/coqui.html is a beautiful and enlightening article about coquis in Puerto Rico.)
THE PEOPLE who are now so concerned about our birds -- are they also concerned about whomever is being extinguished by the pollution from their own automobiles, or from our whole, societal way of living? No, not really; they just don't like the coquis. They're not above warping the facts a bit, either, in order to bolster the hysteria. Some people are now spreading the "fact" that a female coqui produces 50 eggs every two and a half weeks. I decided to check that out, and found that it's been observed only in laboratory conditions. In the wild, it's a different story -- the coqui usually lays a cluster of 34-75 eggs four to six times a year.
ANOTHER FEAR is that they will invade our homes. I've been told that they will get in among the coils at the back of my refrigerator, from where it will be impossible to dislodge them. This makes absolutely no sense. Why would a frog choose to live in such an unnatural place as that? Seems to me they're going to get mighty hungry there! Seems to me the indoor environment is not moist enough for them at all; these guys love the rain. I found one of them in my bathroom one night, and I was trying to grab him and put him back outside, but he eluded me. Alas, I found his desiccated corpse the next morning, being carried off by a squadron of ants.
If we kill the coquis, we're going to regret it -- just as we've come to regret almost every human attempt at outsmarting Mother Nature. Chemical fertilizers, industrial agriculture, genetically modified crops, pharmaceutical drugs -- all these things look so good to us at first ... until we discover that the long-term cost is much greater than the temporary benefits. We simply are not smart enough to tinker successfully with the universe; we'd be a lot smarter to live in harmony with it.
AN ATTACK on any form of life -- including coqui frogs -- is an attack on Life itself. We're all connected; the death of one is the death of all.
At the bottom of all this, of course, lies money. People are afraid that tourists and/or home-buyers will be repulsed by the sounds of the frogs. On the contrary, I think tourists will find the serenade of coquis enchanting; and, if homebuyers don't like it, they should live somewhere else. Would they move to Alaska and complain about the snow? Anyway, this gives us a clue as to who is really behind the anti-coqui campaign; could it be mainly those in the real estate and tourism industries?
The irony is, the more we attack the frogs, the more threatened they feel, the more they will increase their reproductive rate! Why don't people just relax about them? In the famous words of Rodney King, "Why can't we all just get along?"
Don Beckett lives in Hilo, Hawaii.