Sunday, November 11, 2007

Waging war on the coqui

Waging war on the coqui

Lawa'i frogs are nearly eradicated

by Nathan Eagle - THE GARDEN ISLAND

LAWA'I — A multi-pronged effort continues to produce a downward trend in the level of calls heard at a Lawa'i coqui frog infestation.

If ongoing lime, citric acid and herbicide applications remain effective, the noisy dime-sized species may soon be eradicated from the site, the Kauai Invasive Species Committee reported to County Council Wednesday at the Historic County Building.

The county has authorized $329,000 to fund the effort, of which half has been spent since January, KISC Project Manager Keren Gundersen said.

The state has allotted an additional $100,000 for the project, but the funds have not been released to the committee yet, she added. Those funds, she said she anticipates, will cover future prevention and outreach efforts post-eradication.

Beth Tokioka, who heads the county Office of Economic Development, said her office oversees the Lawa'i site but the effort includes cooperation with community members and state and federal agencies.

Four digital devices were set up at various infestation zones within the site to record two-minute segments of coqui frogs chirping a few nights per week, KISC Data Analyst Jeff Schlueter said.

The frogs, a pest to most residents and now a major issue on the Big Island, produce a high second note at a distinct frequency that the committee was able to isolate.

Data collected from April to October shows significantly fewer calling frogs were recorded in direct correlation to the eradication techniques that have been implemented, Schlueter said.

Only several calls per week are now heard compared to hundreds six months ago, he added.

Although the current electronic monitoring does not enable the committee to derive the actual number of frogs at the site, Schlueter said it is safe to assume fewer calls equate to fewer frogs.

Only the males make the sound, Gundersen added.

A KISC booth at the Kaua'i County Farm Bureau Fair in August drew an estimated 800 people, she said, and 99 percent supported eradicating coqui frogs on Kaua'i.

She stressed that after eradication comes prevention.

A proactive approach, such as mandating hot water treatments for plants to be sold, will make a big difference in the spread of coqui frog eggs and other invasive species, she said, including fire ants.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said it is "such a relief" to be moving steadily toward eradication. She noted a coqui frog infestation's potential to reduce real estate and resort property values.

Council Chair Bill "Kaipo" Asing commended the committee's work, calling it an "outstanding" job.

The Coqui Frog Working Group — consisting of members from KISC, OED, Garden Island Resource Conservation and Development, state Agriculture Department, Kukui'ula Development, A&B Properties, Health Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources and residents neighboring the infestation site — has worked together for years to collaborate on an eradication project and was given the extra boost it needed to accomplish these goals with the additional county funding, a KISC news release states.

The members of the Coqui Frog Crew, temporarily hired with the county funds, are "the heroes" of this project, Gundersen said.

Led by Joseph Aguon-Kona, the crew worked 10-hour days for four days a week to not only get the pest under control, but to meet the highest of expectations for the project. Joining Aguon-Kona on the crew are Duane Patricio, Cherlyann Lemalu, Kevin Sasaki, Robert Diaz, Bradley Morita, Lisa St. Amant, and Cyrus Correia, the release says.

For more information, visit To report a possible coqui frog, call 634-PEST.

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or