We were on a beach on Oahu, Hawaii and in the distance there really big squirrels were darting back and forth. We got closer and saw that they were mongooses. Really! Like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi!
The Hawaiian word for mongoose is Iole manakuke or manakuke. Lole means rat, manakuke means mongoose; rat mongoose.
There are mongooses in Hawaii. A lot of them. And they don’t belong there.
There were rats on the island before Europeans came there. They seem to have come over with the original Polynesians that settled the islands. Then ships came, bringing other, bigger rats.
But in the 1800s, when sugar cane plantations started, rats really got to be a problem. Rats destroyed the crops and infested the warehouses where harvested stalks were processed.
In 1872, W.B. Espeut wrote a paper on using mongoose to control rats in Jamaica. Newspapers reported on it and sugar plantation owners believed it. Mongooses were brought to the Hawaiian Islands (and other areas where sugar was grown) to control the rats.
It never worked. Mongooses hunt during the day when rats are hiding and sleeping. Mongooses sleep at night, when rats are destroying crops and eating native animals and plants.
Now the islands have two problems. Instead of eating rats, mongooses prefer the eggs of native birds and sea turtles. And they still have rats. Every island except Lana’i and Kaua’I has a problem with mongooses.
There are no squirrels on the Hawaiian islands. If you think you see a squirrel, you probably see a mongoose. Or a rat. Or a cat with a fluffy tail. Or you need glasses.
All other photos are by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK.
All of our photos turned out really blurry as the (admit it) cute little things darted around.
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