Daily Video

August 8, 2017

Invasive parakeets threaten Hawaii’s ecosystem

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  • Rose-ringed parakeets have multiplied by the thousands on the Hawaiian island of Kauai since the 1960s, when a few parakeets kept as pets escaped. While the birds, which are native to parts of Africa and Asia, are beautiful and brightly colored, they have caused problems by damaging native plants and farm crops.
  • Parakeets adore the tropical fruit grown on Kauai, such as lychee, papaya and passion fruit. Due to their large and increasing numbers, they can damage a large amount of produce in a short amount of time.
  • Farmers have had to come up with creative solutions to protect their crops. Farmer Gary Uenten first tried using waxed paper bags to protect his lychee crop, but the birds soon started to eat through the bags. Now he puts huge nets over his fruit trees, which he estimates costs $1200, a significant expense for a farmer.
  • Because Hawaii is one of the most isolated island chains in the world, its native plants and animals did not evolve to compete with foreign threats. Therefore, when plants and animals from other parts of the world come to Hawaii, they tend to spread quickly and can damage native species and deprive them of resources.
  •  The Hawaii state legislature has allocated $75000 to fight the birds, and efforts include stretching nets across buildings where they roost to capture them alive and sell them to pet stores. However, if catching isn’t enough, the state may resort to killing the birds.
  • Some residents of Hawaii are fond of the birds and oppose efforts to eradicate them. Cathy Goeggel, the president of the Animal Rights Hawaii, said that after 50 years the birds are an established population. She objects to killing the parakeets just because they aren’t native.

  1. Essential question: What impact can invasive species have upon an ecosystem?
  2. What characteristics of an isolated ecosystem similar to that of Hawaii make it easy for a foreign species to take over and multiply quickly? How can this be problematic for native species? Explain.
  3. What are the pros and cons of aggressive efforts to eradicate the parakeets, including going as far as killing the birds?
  4. Media literacy check: Analyze the various points of view represented in the story, from farmers to environmentalists to animal rights activists to those in the tourism industry. How do might each of these groups feel about the issue and why?

Key Term:

lychee: a small and fleshy pink-red fruit native to China and grown in tropical climates worldwide.


Extension Activity:

Investigate how lionfish, another escaped pet, became a destructive invasive species with this PBS NewsHour Extra lesson plan.

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