Saturday, September 23, 2006

Political Animals

Photo Credit MHA

This little frog has caused large amounts of money to change hands. This little frog has been written up in the newspaper on a regular basis like some Hollywood star because of his dating escapades. This little frog has gotten some people in big trouble.

A tiny little toad just over an inch long from Puerto Rico, the Coqui Frog arrived in Hawaii maybe a decade or more ago and has caused a major uproar as its numbers have increased, while his much more wide spread and firmly established Puerto Rican immigrant cousin, the Greenhouse Frog has barely elicited a peep from the very same "environmentally concerned" crowd.

They are so similar in habitat needs, behavior and looks that it is hard to discern the difference between the two except for one thing. The Coqui Frog to its detriment is a loud mouth. The Greenhouse Frog sounds like a little baby chirpy bird and blends in so well with the sound of the crickets they have slipped in unnoticed and with seeming indifference to their arrival and establishment in the ecosystem.

Back in June when I was visiting family in Florida I had to sit outside to smoke. It was quite pleasant sitting outside in the dark cool air listening to the sounds of the creatures of the night. It took two nights before I realized the familiar sounds from my youth were amazingly loud, really loud. As I listened I began to wonder if one dominant sound in the chorus was some new species of tree frog. That is what it sounded like to me (actual sound I heard). Or was it the Cicadas I knew should be there?

I asked my Dad to come out and listen to this sound and tell me what it was. At first he didn't seem to hear it. How can you not hear that incredibly loud sound I asked. When I pointed out the rhythm he just said it was the Cicadas in a way that was like, why are you asking such a silly question? It's a bug, what's the big deal?

A much less piercing call on Maui was causing major upheavals. Don't let the audios above fool you. The Coqui one was purposely set to loud. Turn it down and listen to it again. You may have heard it on rain forest records meant to soothe people to sleep. In real life the Cicadas are much louder.

Having granted themselves exempt from the sign ordinance, come election time politicians plaster the landscape from the seashore to the top of Haleakala with their vibrantly colored name tags. A local nursery in Kihei has sprouted an abundant crop of colorful signs. I couldn't help but noticed that no particular preference in the Mayors race was evident in the signage placed there. Every mayoral candidate had a sign or two. Property owners do have a right of refusal and must consent to each sign placed. You do not have to place a sign for a candidate you do not want to be elected.

Upon closer inspection I noticed one of the five names in the mayors race was missing. Our former mayor was trying to get his job back and this nursery owner didn't seem to have any room for his sign. Another plant nursery two blocks down the road didn't have room for any signs from any candidate for any race.

Guess which nursery has a long running infestation of Coqui Frogs that extends back to the previous county administration when it first began trying to get a permit to open a retail merchandise shop to go with the plant sales.

There is a radio commercial that I hear quite often from MISC that says the Coqui Frog is a threat because it will eat native insects that the native birds rely on and it has no natural predators to keep its numbers in check. My initial response to this fear is what native insects and what native birds? Are there any natives left around the low elevations where the frogs have taken up residence? As for predators, maybe that are not natural but the list of non native introduced birds, reptiles and mammals that will eat Coqui frogs is quite extensive.

I am all for preserving native Hawaiian habitat and slowing the spread of noxious pests. Over the years I have watched numerous newly arrived insect and small animal species become established in my own garden and not a one of them has caused as much fuss and concern as the Coqui Frog has engendered. There are now herds of Axis Deer roaming freely around Maui and if I hadn't seen them myself and the damage they cause you wouldn't know from any county, state, or federal government office or any invasive species committee that they even existed.

What was behind this disproportionate focus on a tiny little loud mouthed frog?

"Concern has been expressed that the coqui's noise may reduce property values and/or saleability of properties as people try to vacate areas infested with frogs."

Realtors. The money meter was ticking. The quiet little frog that had long ago established itself in the same ecosystem eating the same bugs at the same house for sale as his loud mouthed cousin the Coqui was of no concern to the environmentally concerned Realtors Associations. All of a sudden MISC could afford repetitive radio commercials and the state and county were doling out dollars in large chunks.

There is some sort of saying about greasy wheels that squeak.

Can you spot the frog in the picture above?

Today is primary election day and I will go look at a long list of Frogs to see which ones I can kiss with my vote and hope with all my might that some of them may turn out to be capable of benevolent and princely deeds.

1 comment:

christin m p in massachusetts said...

That little orange frog is so-o-o-o cute -- too bad it makes such a piercing sound.

I don't like the idea that they're going to eradicate them. They wouldn't keep me awake, since I always run a white-noise fan while I sleep (day sleepers have to do that).

Let us know at breadcrusts if any of the "frogs" you "kissed" with your votes won, okay?