Sunday, September 9, 2001

Puerto Rico protests
Hawaii plan to kill frogs

By Marcelo Ballve
Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico >> Puerto Rico's government on Friday asked U.S. authorities to halt a federal program to eradicate night-chirping frogs loved in their native Puerto Rico but considered a noisy and invasive pest in Hawaii.

In Hawaii, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is developing a caffeine-based spray to kill the frogs, known affectionately as "coquis" in Puerto Rico, a name meant to imitate their high-pitched two-tone song. The spray would cause the frogs to go into cardiac failure.

"I urge the department to stop any eradication program that may exist and seek alternatives to the indiscriminate killing of the coqui frog in Hawaii," said the letter sent by Anibal Acevedo Vila, Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress.

He called the frog a national symbol and asked for any studies on the environmental impact of the coquis in Hawaii, writing he was "deeply concerned" that the eradication program "may be based on misguided policies."

The letter was sent to Bobby Acord, head of the agriculture department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The service runs the research center in Hawaii developing the eradication plan, which still must pass regulatory hurdles.

Local press reports about the extermination plan have whipped up indignation among Puerto Ricans, who wonder why anyone could see the frog as a pest. In Puerto Rico, the coquis adorn bumper stickers and T-shirts. Their chirps are considered melodious.

Biologists believe the amphibian invaders arrived by accident in Hawaii, possibly with shipments of ornamental plants. In recent years, at least one species of coqui has colonized some 150 areas on the Big Island, driving unaccustomed residents crazy with the noisy chirping.

Biologists fear the coquis will prey on native insects and spread plant diseases.

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