Big Island Mayor Harry Kim is looking for $2 million to begin controlling the spread of the nocturnal coqui frog, a beloved native in Puerto Rico but considered an annoying pest in Hawaii since hitching a ride over in shipments of tropical plants around 1990.
The frogs have been mating easily — and shattering quiet island nights — ever since.
Aside from the noise, the frogs have a voracious appetite for spiders and insects, competing with native birds and fauna. And coqui frogs are adaptable to many ecosystems and breed heavily in Hawaii, experts said.
Kim said the Big Island, the local name for the island of Hawaii, will once again ask Gov. Linda Lingle to declare the coqui frog infestation a state emergency to help clear the way for state financial assistance. The $2 million is needed to launch a combined state, federal and county program to combat the frogs, Kim said. He made his plea Tuesday before state lawmakers, who will consider the request later this year.
Kim said he declared a county emergency in April over the frogs, but the state waited to see if the federal government would offer assistance, which it did not.
Spraying of a citric acid solution on the islands of Oahu and Kauai have curtailed coqui populations there, but limited spraying on Kim's island has done little.
"I think the response from all of us has not been timely enough," he said, noting that experts suggest he focus on controlling the coqui's spread, rather than eradicating it completely.
"I kick myself in the back every day for not getting started more aggressively," Kim said.
More than 150 communities on the Big Island are now infested with the coin-sized frogs, named after their high-decibel "ko-KEE, ko-KEE" chirp.
By B.J. Reyes