Alien species what you can do to help protect Hawai`i from alien pests

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What you can do to help protect Hawai`i from alien pests

1) Watch out for foreign plants and animals. Report sightings of animals that don't belong in Hawai`i, such as snakes, alligators, parrots, or other exotic birds or animals that are unfamiliar to you. Learn to identify Miconia, banana poka, and other major plant pests. Call 586-PEST to report sightings.

2) Keep your pets (cats, dogs, rabbits, parrots, reptiles, fish) at home. It is illegal to release any non-native animal without a proper permit. Rabbits released into the wild destroy crops and native vegetation; cats prey on native birds; reptiles and amphibians prey on native birds and insects; and aquarium fish, if released into streams, compete with and prey on native fish and shrimp. Escaped or liberated exotic birds carry disease, damage fruit and flower crops, and compete with endangered native birds. Bring any unwanted pets to the Humane Society. If you or a friend have an illegal animal as a pet, turn it in voluntarily to the Department of Agriculture and avoid fines under their amnesty program. Penalties for keeping illegal pets can be up to $25,000 and/or one year in jail.

The gold-dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda), an exotic species brought into Hawaii as a pet and illegally released into the wild in the early 1970s.

3) Fill out your Department of Agriculture declaration form completely and honestly when you arrive in Hawai`i. The declaration form the flight attendant gives you is your opportunity to report anything you may have brought with you that could be a problem. Remember, just because you list the item doesn't mean it will be taken away from you. If necessary, it will be inspected and, if it poses a pest threat, it will be dealt with appropriately. You are not subject to a penalty if you voluntarily submit these items for inspection. If you try to avoid inspection, you may be subject to up to a $25,000 fine and/or one year in jail if you are caught. Alternatively, you may be the person responsible for introducing a new disease or other pest to Hawai`i.

4) When coming to Hawai`i, don't bring plants, fruits, vegetables, or illegal animals with you. Fruits, vegetables, pets, and even muddy shoes are great hitchhiking vehicles for diseases, insects, and weed seeds, which can easily escape and establish themselves as new pests. Clean boots and camping gear before returning home to Hawai`i. Insects can also hitch a ride to Hawai`i on illegally imported animals, such as snakes, or on cats and dogs smuggled to avoid quarantine.

5) Mail-order wisely and ask friends and relatives not to send you plants or animals through the mail. Many catalogs offer plants, seeds, and animals that become serious pests in Hawai`i. Even the desirable plant, fruit, or animal sent through the mail may have other pests growing on it. To avoid problems, check with the state Department of Agriculture to be sure a particular catalog item is allowable in Hawai`i and check with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to be sure the item is unlikely to pose a threat to native forests. Obtain the state import permit required for all animals and microorganisms and many plants. Be sure parcels mailed to you are clearly marked Contains Living Material: Please Open for Agricultural Inspection to avoid any delays in delivery.

6) Landscape with native plants or non-pest ornamentals. There are many beautiful plants that are tempting to use in landscaping or to sell in garden or flower shops that are terrible pests once they escape into the wild. Seeds and spores from non-native plants in your garden can easily spread and establish themselves in our native forests or farms, crowding out our native species or crops. By growing native plants, such as 'ilima, 'a'ali'i, and wiliwili, you can help preserve native species and Hawaiian culture. For dry areas, native plants also offer less thirsty ornamentals, helping conserve our precious freshwater supply.

You could plant native flowers like the ilima (Sida fallax), at left, or the wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis).

7) Clean your hiking boots, running shoes, and other gear before you enter native forest areas or travel inter-island. Many alien weeds are only found on one or a few of our islands. These can easily be carried from one island to the next on muddy boots, camping gear, or farm equipment. The simple precaution of scrubbing your gear can keep some of our worst pests from spreading to other islands or into the heart of our remaining forests.

8) Don't spread crop pests by sharing diseased plants. Banana bunchy-top disease, papaya ring-spot virus, and taro root aphid are all devastating pests that are spread by people giving diseased plants to their friends. An act of generosity could be a deadly blow to your friend's garden or farm, and to the farmers of an entire island. Ask the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture before sending or carrying plants interisland.

9) Volunteer to assist land managers in removing invasive alien plants and restoring native plant communities. One of the greatest threats to Hawai`i's hundreds of unique plants and animals is the wholesale invasion of our native forests and coastlines by aggressive alien plants that displace native plant communities. DLNR has programs to incorporate concerned volunteers from the general public in its efforts to protect and restore native habitats in Hawai`i. Mostly this involves removal of invasive plants and their replacement with native vegetation either grown in nurseries or regenerating naturally in the wild. For example, DLNR's Division of Forestry and Wildlife has established programs using volunteer labor to restore Ka'ena Point Natural Area Reserve on O`ahu and Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary on Maui, and new volunteers are always welcome to assist. Interested persons may contact their local DLNR offices for further information on how to become involved. Similar programs are often available as well at the national parks, national wildlife refuges, and at Koke'e Museum on Kaua`i.

10) Lobby your legislators. Express your concerns about the destruction of Hawai`i's environment and economy by alien species to your elected representatives and urge them to ensure that the State's quarantine and response programs for alien species are state-of-the-art.

11) If you sail or fly, keep a clean ship. Don't be tempted to bring potted plants, animals, or other living material to Hawai`i on your sailboat or private plane. As the crews of the Polynesian voyaging canoes discovered in 1995, these can carry the larvae of biting sand flies or other serious pests. And remember that sand, soil, and plant products like wood carvings or mats can be full of pests. Ballast water, also, can carry foreign algae, jellyfish, mollusks, and other potentially harmful species to Hawai`i. Keep a clean craft, and show everything you do bring to Hawai`i to the Customs and Agriculture inspectors.

12) Spread the word. Share this information with a friend. Protecting Hawai`i from pest invasion depends on what you and other individuals do. Encourage your friends and family to do the right thing.

For Further Information Contact:

Division of Forestry and Wildlife
1151 Punchbowl Street, Rm. 325
Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813
Phone 808-587-0166, FAX 808-587-0160

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Text adapted from The Silent Invasion by the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS)
Source: retrieved 9/17.04

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