For years people would ask me if I had ever been to Hawaii. They were always amazed when I said no. I have been to plenty of tropical islands but I was saving America’s tropics. I knew that I would always be able to travel there. As one of the states I know it was unlikely to experience civil unrest like the Galapagos or the Seychelles.
I also had read much a bout the human and natural history. And like many places in the world the original inhabitants – human, animal and plant- had suffered greatly.
So for the first time recently I traveled to Maui. Most people consider Hawaii to be a paradise and I guess in many senses it is. But alas sometimes it is a disadvantage to be a naturalist. I knew how much was lost. I knew that in 18?? a barrel full of mosquito larvae was intentionally released by an irate whaling captain. These insects carried avian malaria and within a very short time, many of the native birds up to 3000′ in elevation were wiped completely off the face of the earth. Pigs brought by the colonizing Polynesians had thoroughly altered the botanical landscape by eating almost every plant.
Those species not driven to extinction by pigs where further decreased as a result of the introduction of exotic plants from the four corners of the tropical world.
A litany of environmental ills affect the islands today. I saw Australian pines, rainbow eucalyptus, Indian myna birds, cardinals, English sparrows, Indian mongooses, cattle egrets, lantanas, hibiscus, house geckos, bullfrogs- all species from other parts of the world. Few modern Haw have any clue bout the overwhelming abundance of non-native species.
How ironic that the Maui flower is the Bird of Paradise. A plant native to the jungles os Southeast Asia.
This is Michael Ellis with a perspective.