Hawaii Agriculture Dept. eradicating coqui frog infestation in Waimanalo

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) is coordinating a multi-agency eradication effort after officials detected a coqui frog infestation in a remote area of Waimanalo.

A total of 65 coqui frogs have been captured by hand in a one-acre area along the base of the mountains in Waimanalo as of Friday, April 16.

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Invasive Species Council, Oahu Invasive Species Committee and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands are a part of the multi-agency effort. The chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture says the infestation has gone undetected for some time.

“Unfortunately, this coqui infestation is in a remote area and has gone undetected for some time despite HDOA staff responding to reports and conducting night monitoring for more than 10 years in Waimanalo. We appreciate the assistance of our partner agencies in this effort to contain and eradicate this coqui population and we continue to urge residents to report any suspected coqui infestations.”

Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, Hawaii Board of Agriculture chairperson

A Waimanalo resident reported hearing the invasive frogs near the area in February 2021. Inspectors from HDOA returned to the area five times since the report and captured one to three coqui frogs on every trip.

A team of six HDOA Plant Quarantine Branch (PQB) inspectors searched the area on Tuesday, March 30, and pinpointed the area of the infestation. The PQB inspectors captured 33 coqui frogs during the evening of March 30.

A second team of PQB inspectors returned on Friday, April 9, and captured an additional 18 coqui frogs. Five inspectors also captured 14 frogs on Thursday, April 15.

HDOA officials say the immediate concern is preventing the frogs from spreading to other areas.

A survey conducted on Wednesday, April 14, indicated traditional means of getting treatment equipment to the area would not be feasible, primarily due to terrain. Alternative options are being discussed, according to HDOA.

Staff members are routinely conducting searches to remove the frogs from the area. An additional buffer zone has been placed around the infestation area to reduce the likelihood of further spread. Treatment of the area will occur once it can safely be conducted.

Coqui frogs were first detected on the Big Island in the late 1980s and have since established a population there. Residents report the frogs to be a major noise nuisance and officials say the invasive species poses a threat to native ecosystems.

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