Monday, August 3, 2009

The good, the gorgeous, and the not-so-much

Took this yesterday while playing with my new camera's "Panoramic" setting at Hanauma Bay. Yeah, it's that gorgeous here :)

Ok, a couple more beautiful shots:
The best place to play baseball. Ever.

Perfect scenery

But, like just about every beautiful island, Oahu has its share of invasive and introduced species which have wreaked havoc on the native and endemic species. Take this leaping little guy, for example:
This is an Indian mongoose, one of the many introduced species which now calls most of the islands of Hawaii home. In the 1800s, as the islands became more and more in contact with the rest of the world, sugar cane plantations popped up like weeds. The sugary crop attracted rats, another invasive, much to the chagrin of the cane plantation owners. In an attempt to fight back, they introduced Herpestes javanicus, with hopes that these hungry little mongeese would eat all the rats. Of course, like most introduced species, they had a much bigger impact than hoped.

Mongeese are highly abundant on Oahu and many of the islands - at Hanauma Bay we saw at least ten while leaving the park, and they were everywhere. Kaua'i and Lana'i are the only islands here that are mongoose-free (though there have been recent sightings, and considering the entire population that lives here now descended from 9 animals, any sightings are bad news). Folk legend says that when they were shipped to Kaua'i to be introduced, one bit a dockworker and he threw them all overboard, though it's been said that, in fact, it was the unhappy local residents who didn't want the pesky creature which drowned the incoming shipment.

The locals were right to be worried. Instead of hunting rats, which are usually nocturnal (compared to the daylight-feeding mongoose) and fight back fiercely, the voracious monsters went after native bird eggs, decimating the populations of many native species, including the beloved Nene, or Hawaiian Goose. Hawaii isn't the only place these pests have taken over - the IUCN lists them as one of the top 100 worst invasive species in the world because they grow quickly, breed quickly, and can survive almost anywhere on almost anything, from bugs to birds and, rarely, the rats they're so often introduced to get rid of. Based on the public health damages, killing of poultry, extinctions of amphibians, reptiles, and destruction of native birds, it is estimated that this one species of mongoose is causing $50 million in damages each year in Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian Islands alone, despite control methods including trapping, hunting, and poisoning. Basically, they're a complete menace.

Although I think I am even more pissed that stupid humans introduced mosquitos here in 1826. There weren't blood sucking flies or mosquitos here before then. Now that would have been unbelievable paradise!


Bjørn Østman said...

I really can't seem to spot the mongoose. Could you give us a hint?

You may it sound like mosquitos were introduced on purpose, but surely that's not the case?

Christie Lynn said...

Look down and to the right of the bush in the middle... there's a little guy leaping, fully stretched out. They're kind of hard to catch on camera up close, skiddish little devils. :)

Christie Lynn said...

PS added another, more contrasting pic of them for better visuals.

liliannattel said...

Great pics! Mosquito free, now there's a thought.

Allie said...

I love when people don't do their research before introducing a biological control....take cane toads, for example....

Brian said...

Love the new panorama camera shots! Glad you got a new cam and it looks like more features. hehe! See you in a month!

Anonymous said...

OK, my first thought is; Humans INTRODUCED mosquitoes? What the hot flaming Frak!?!? My second thought is, was this an accident?

Regarding the mongooses (mongeese?), well,... seems like garden variety human stupidity to introduce a diurnal predator in an attemt to control a nocturnal pest. It still gives me a pain in the head to wonder why no-one realized this particular detail.

Oh, and my name's Robert. Hi!

Christie Lynn said...

Well, sure, maybe mosquitos were an accident. But I don't care if it was intentional or not. I'm still pissed.

Hi, Robert :)