Honolulu Lite
Charles Memminger

An explosive idea to
blow away coquis

The battle against the lowly coqui frog is intensifying, with the state Legislature considering allotting money to croak the little knockers, a federal science foundation coughing up cash to study the critters and vigilante groups forming to take the laws of nature into their own hands, not to mention their stomping boots.

All this firepower is being waged against an animal the size of a quarter which has the misfortune of simply being annoying.

Some animals have fangs, some claws and others handguns, but when God was dishing out the defensive weaponry to the animal kingdom, the only thing the coqui frog got was a fierce sexual drive and a piercing screech. Since the frog invaded Hawaii (so much for homeland security), the coquis have been driving people on the Big Island and Maui bonkers. But because they are tiny and numerous (the frogs, not the island residents), it is hard to round up the little buggers.

Frog fighters discovered early that caffeine would kill the coqui, but there was no money to set up Marshbucks coffee outlets in the wild.

The state Legislature is considering allotting money to wipe out the frogs, but it probably won't happen. With all the money legislators are shelling out for public employee raises, the only thing they can do to hurt the coqui frogs is not give them tax breaks.

The National Science Foundation has given a University of Hawaii-Hilo biologist $300,000 to study the coqui in its unnatural habitat. But when you consider how slowly university studies proceed and how quickly coqui frogs procreate, the frogs will have taken over the university and have several seats on the Board of Regents before the study is completed.

APPARENTLY TAKING inspiration from the controversial Minuteman movement in which civilians are patrolling the U.S.-Mexican border to help keep illegal aliens out, some Maui residents are forming posses to hunt down coquis. The Maui Minute Frog Men (that's "minute" as in "my-nute" or diminutive, not 60 seconds) stalk a different kind of alien invader, one whose mere presence can devastate the delicate balance of Maui's eco(nomic) system by driving down real estate values.

Their weapon of choice is a gizmo that sprays citric acid. The spray not only kills the frogs, but leaves the island smelling fresh and citrusy, not unlike one of those plug-in air fresheners.

The frog hunters should dispatch one of their members to Berlin where news reports say that thousands of toads are inexplicably puffing up and exploding in a pond in Hamburg.

Scientists have no explanation as to why the toads' stomachs are suddenly swelling up like balloons and then blowing up.

Janne Kloepper of the Institute for Hygiene and the Environment (next door to the Institute for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Mechanical Engineering) said the exploding frog thing is a head-scratcher.

"It's absolutely strange," she said.

If we can figure out why the German frogs are exploding, we could possibly re-create that phenomenon in Hawaii, and our coqui frog problem might be solved. Sure, the nights would be filled with the percussive sound of thousands of tiny frogs detonating across the islands, but at least the annoying chirping would stop.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com

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