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Invasive species endangers fragile ecosystem

by Brianna Bush - Editor-in-Chief
Wed, Feb 26th 2020 02:00 pm
The state of Hawaii has become a mecca for endangered species, fronted with fears of saying goodbye to members of its beautiful habitat.
The state of Hawaii has become a mecca for endangered species, fronted with fears of saying goodbye to members of its beautiful habitat.

When Hawaii comes to mind, usually people think of it as a vacation spot. Some even forget that Hawaii is a part of the United States. What people really don’t think about is the environmental effects the tourists and traders bring to the island. 

Out of all the states in North America, Hawaii is the only state without a case of rabies seen in its habitats. Many of the different species of flora and fauna are not native to Hawaii; they had come to the island via wind and water and later adapted and evolved to the point where they have very few predators.

“Protecting the endemic wildlife is a challenge, leading scientists to call the Aloha State the endangered species capital of the world,” usnews.com stated. “Whole flocks of sand-nesting birds have been ravaged by pet dogs let off the leash. Feral cats and mosquitoes pose constant threats to endemic songbirds, and fast-growing alien plants and trees crowd out the native rainforests.”

Reps. Ed Case and Tulsi Gabbard introduced a bill earlier this month to fight invasive species. The bill will call for the inspections of any cargo, baggage and any other article destined to enter Hawaii. 

“The inspections will search for high-risk invasive species and agricultural materials,” Case said to the House of Representatives. “The inspections will be conducted at airports, ports and postal sorting facilities prior to direct travel to the State of Hawaii.”

Hawaiian officials aren’t just looking to stop certain species from coming into the state, they are also looking to keep the problem species in Hawaii and out of the U.S. mainland. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has screening equipment and staff scrutinizing luggage before it leaves Hawaii airports.

Unfortunately, the mainland does not have the same kind of passion to check for unwanted species, they are looking for drugs, guns and other illegal objects. William Wepsala, a spokesman for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the mainland government is not at fault for not doing a more thorough search, it is the responsibility of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

“Pests of quarantine concern for Hawaii may be intercepted at Hawaiian ports by Federal agents but are not always acted upon by them because these pests are not regulated under Federal mandates. Hence, Federal protection against pest species of concern to Hawaii has historically been inadequate,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated. “Adequate staffing, facilities and equipment for Federal and State pest inspectors and identifiers in Hawaii devoted to invasive species interdiction are critical biosecurity gaps.”

People have been reported trying to leave Hawaii with forbidden fruit, vegetables, birds and even the occasional snake. Many of which have been found because of forms filled out at the airports. Unfortunately, the forms are only 29% accurate — 71% of objects found by detector dogs were not accounted for on the forms.

“Hawaii has become the endangered species and extinction capital of the world,” case.house.gov stated. “Hawaii currently has 503 species listed as endangered, more than any other state and almost half of the total endangered species nationwide. Many of these species are critically endangered and face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Although we will never know the true number of species that have gone extinct in Hawai‘i, best estimates are that in the last 200 years alone 28 bird, 72 snail, 74 insect and 97 plant species have gone extinct.”

To try and combat the mass extinction and endangerment, we need to think about why we want to disrupt the environment by taking and introducing certain species to an area. Many of the people taking species away from Hawaii are doing so for the illegal pet trade, the tropical birds and reptiles are appealing to many “professional” pet owners.

If people want to continue to see the beautiful and natural state that is Hawaii we must sustain to remain. It is important to remember that nature is beautiful in its natural state and people that try and change it to “better their business” and attract more tourists with some kind of man-made attraction.

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