Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Every so often I stop at the Lookout Point on Diamond Head Road to enjoy the view of ocean and sky.  Turning around, I also like admiring the full-of-character rock façade across the street.

Turning back to the ocean I spotted a little critter on the wall to my left, sitting by the trash cans, scratching himself where it counts.

We don’t have any squirrels in Hawaii.  This cute little animal may look like one, but it’s a mongoose, manakuke in Hawaiian, imported to control the rat infestations in the sugar cane fields.

As you know, back in the 1800’s, sugar was king in Hawaii.  The rats liked the sweet sugar cane and managed to cause major damage.  In 1883, some Big Island plantation owners imported 72 mongooses from Jamaica (that were originally imported from Calcutta, India).  Baby mongooses were then shipped to plantations on other islands. 

Interestingly Lanai and Kauai did not get any.  Lucky for them, because the mongooses did not relieve the problem; they compounded it.  Being diurnal animals versus rats being nocturnal, the idea of major rat control was a joke.

But the bigger problem was (and still is) that, like rats, mongooses also like to eat birds, and especially, those juicy little bird eggs.  Bye-bye native Hawaiian birds that nest on the ground.  The mongoose is implicated in the decline of the Hawaiian goose and the Newell’s shearwater bird.  

And if that weren’t enough, both rats and mongooses carry leptospirosis. 

Little mongoose, so cute and so bad!

I’m reminded of the last lines in Marge Piercy’s poem, “The Good, The Bad, and The Inconvenient”…

We eat to live and so do they,
the locusts, the grasshoppers,
the flea beetles and aphids and slugs.
(Add: rats and mongooses too!)

we do is simple, without consequence
and each act is shadowed with death.


  1. Growing up in Manoa, I saw a lot of mongoose running across the our street. Now that I live near the Aloha Stadium, I never see them. And the feral cats have eradicated rats here, too.

    1. CATS!!!! That's the answer! Why don't we let the feral cats loose on mongooses and rats? But oops, cats kill birds too. There just is no one simple solution.