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Keep the coquí alive!

2008 May 15

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s note:  like all our bloggers, and as stated on the “about” page, Lina is expressing her own opinion, not that of EPA in general.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.

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When my friend Jeff M. came back from Hawaii, he mentioned the Hawaiian-Puerto Rican controversy over the tiny Puerto Rican frog, the coquí-the Eleutherodactylus coquí.

The controversy or “national conflict” depending if you ask a Puerto Rican, made front page headlines several years ago when Puerto Rico got wind of Hawaii’s efforts to eradicate these innocent Puerto Rican frogs. How did they travel thousands of miles across the oceans? Apparently some innocent coquís got on a plant shipment from the tropical paradise in the Caribbean to a similar paradise thousands of miles away in the Pacific. Needless to say, in that tropical setting without any indigenous predators, these Puerto Rican coquis have multiplied abundantly!

photo of a coqui frogThese small frogs are known for their melodious nocturnal sounds in Puerto Rico. They have been the inspiration for numerous songs, stories, and poetry. These small amphibians have become an unofficial symbol of Puerto Rico. In fact, I just read a newspaper article in Puerto Rico, that the Sierra Club-PR and the University of Puerto Rico hosted an Earth Day event to promote the defense of the coquí.

Yet, the coquís-named after their musical chirping-cokée, cokée–have not received a warm aloha from our fellow U.S. citizens in Hawaii.

In fact, what is music to the ears of many Puerto Ricans became more than a amphibian cacophony over in the Pacific. In Hawaii, the coquí chants have been compared to the noise pollution caused by lawn mowers! That’s hard for me to conceptualize, given the fond memories of listening to the coquís at nighttime. I remember many a rainy night falling asleep to the symphony of these harmless creatures. They are so small and defenseless! But for the residents of the state of Hawaii, the Puerto Rican coquís are doomed for complete eradication and some of the methods are not benign at all

It’s true that the Puerto Rican coquí has become an invasive species in Hawaii, yet I still don’t see how coquís challenge Hawaiian wildlife. I still cannot understand why their chants are not music to the ears of the inhabitants of this Island State. Sad to say, it all boils down to one man’s friend is another man’s foe.

Nonetheless-please save the Puerto Rican coquí.

(UPDATE 7/15/2008 – see also Post-Hawaii Musings)

¡Qué viva el coquí!

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Cuando mi amigo Jeff M. regresó de Hawaí, mencionó la controversia entre Hawaí-Puerto Rico sobre la pequeña ranita puertorriqueña, el coquí-Eleutherodactylus coquí.

Esta controversia o “conflicto nacional” si le pregunta a un puertorriqueño, fue motivo de titulares de primera plana hace varios años atrás cuando Puerto Rico se enteró de los esfuerzos hawaianos por erradicar estos pequeños anfibios. ¿Cómo viajaron miles de millas por los océanos? Aparentemente unos inocentes coquíes estaban en un cargamento de plantas que viajaron del paraíso tropical en el Caribe a otro paraíso semejante miles de millas de distancia en el Pacífico. ¡Demás está decir que en ese entorno tropical sin enemigo autóctono en Hawaí, estos coquíes se multiplicaron abundantemente!

photo of a coqui frogEstos pequeños anfibios se caracterizan por los sonidos nocturnos en Puerto Rico. Han servido de inspiración a numerosas canciones, cuentos, y poesías . Estos pequeños anfibios se han convertido en un símbolo extraoficial de Puerto Rico. De hecho, acabo de leer un artículo de periódico anunciando que el Sierra Club-PR y la Universidad de Puerto Rico auspiciaron un evento del Día del Planeta Tierra para promover la defensa del coquí.

Sin embargo, los coquíes-conocidos por su melodioso cantar-coquí, coquí-no han recibido un caluroso aloha de sus conciudadanos estadounidenses en Hawaí.

De hecho, lo que es música para los oídos de muchos puertorriqueños se convirtió en una cacofonía anfibia allá en el Pacífico. ¡En Hawaí, el cantar del coquí ha sido comparado a la contaminación de ruido ocasionado por las cortadoras de césped! Me es difícil conceptualizarlo dado los gratos recuerdos de escuchar a los coquíes al anochecer. Recuerdo muchas noches lluviosas quedarme dormida con la sinfonía de estas criaturas inofensivas. ¡Son pequeñas e indefensas! Pero para los residentes del estado de Hawaí, los coquíes puertorriqueños están condenados a erradicación completa y algunos de los métodos no son nada de benignos.

Es cierto que el coquí puertorriqueño se ha convertido en una especie invasora en Hawaí, pero todavía no veo cómo los coquíes amenazan la vida silvestre hawaiana. Tampoco entiendo el por qué su cantar no es música para los oídos de los habitantes de este estado isleño. Lamento decir, que la controversia se limita al hecho de que la criatura que es amiga para unos resulta enemiga de otros.

Independientemente de la clasificación-ayuden a salvar al coquí puertorriqueño.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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154 Responses leave one →
  1. Kookee permalink
    August 2, 2009

    Thanks for looking into that Lina. Nice to be home again yes…

  2. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 5, 2009

    Yes, the mini-vacation was great. Will blog about it soon–coquis and all. :-)

  3. nana permalink
    September 21, 2009

    The Small Indian Mongoose was first brought to Puerto Rico from the Malay Peninsula in 1877 in an attempt to control the Black rat (Rattus rattus) infestation of the sugar cane plantations. It should be noted that the rats were also “immigrants” to the island, having initially arrived with Columbus’ and subsequent Spanish ships!
    The introduction was a failure: the mongoose failed to control the rat population and instead contributed to the decline of native fauna such as the Yellow-shouldered Blackbird and possibly the Elfin-woods Warbler.
    I would discourage bringing in another species to try and control the population of coqui from spreading, maybe looking into what species you have already and repopulating those natural predators endemic to your area might help>
    I know exactly how the coqui’s singing in unison might be deafening to some…but to me, i guess growing up with them, i miss them when i dont hear them.

  4. nana permalink
    September 21, 2009

    jajajajaja Vanessa!!!! i was going to say the same thing!!!!!

    Sorry Debbie!! i was in no way dismissing your concerns which i respect and understand!!

  5. nana permalink
    September 21, 2009

    humm!! i wonder how your way of looking at this subject will be perceived!!

  6. Johanna permalink
    April 24, 2010

    Is there a place online that one can listen to the sounds of these frogs?

    Johanna Lasserton

  7. Lina-EPA permalink
    July 29, 2010

    Here are some recordings of the PR coquis:
    My colleague Jeffrey Levy posted a recording of the Hawaiian coquis in his blog

  8. Leilehua permalink
    September 2, 2010

    We CAN’T use an existing natural predator to control coquis. We don’t have any. So they are way out of control and have drowned out the sound of the native night crickets that WE love.

    If we had a cricket that was able to completely drown out the sound of coqui frogs, and it moved to Puerto Rico and proceeded to eat up all the coqui’s natural food, and then chirp so loudly that you could not hear a single coqui, would YOU want to embrace it?

  9. Leilehua permalink
    September 2, 2010

    My yard has just as many of the introduced mosquitos now as it did before the coqui frog. What has disappeared are the tiny native snails which used to eat the mosses and fungus from the leaves of my native plants which are now suffering because they cannot remove the mosses and fungus from their leaves.

  10. Leilehua permalink
    September 2, 2010

    I, too, would like to listen again to the beautiful music of my homeland, and be soothed by the singing of the crickets and the sound of the changing tide. But I can’t, because it is drowned out by the continuous call of the coqui frog.

  11. Juan permalink
    September 27, 2010

    The coqui is a menace to our ecosystem, an ecosystem unparalleled in all the world and one in great danger. We have a 90% endemism rate of plants and also are the endangered species capital of the world. The coqui does have a negative effect on our ecosystem. Lina Younes is just playing on her latina roots to try to politicize the coqui that ironically doesn’t see itself as “Puertorican” (And for those who would like to call me racist, I’m of Hispanic ancestry and speak Spanish and Portuguese).

    She is trying to incite emotion, anger, and action on part of the hispanic reader yet interestingly she has never been here, She has never lived here, she obviously has very little knowledge of our native biota and environment, so before she can even begin to think of making a judgment call to “preserve” an invasive species here in Hawai’i, maybe she should open here eyes and realize that maybe she is no better than those who have destroyed this land and it’s people. They may not be the miconia of the animal world, but each small threat to our ecosystem hurts and in the end, all the species here suffer.

    p.s. for those of you who want to hear the beautiful serenade of a thousand lawn-mowers and alarm-clocks together, go anywhere from Hilo down to Mountain View in the evening. The Hawai’i Community College campus in Hilo is a wonderful place to hear the noise which can be deafening. For the daytime and easy access, try the Akaka Falls trail, it’s paved and you can definitely hear a few in the daytime.

  12. Juan permalink
    September 27, 2010

    E eieio, Mahalo!! He is completely correct!

  13. Lina-EPA permalink*
    September 27, 2010

    Just wanted you to know that I did not have any motivation to incite action, anger, or action from Hispanic readers. I was just describing how the coqui’s chants were perceived differently in Hawaii vs. Puerto Rico. Secondly, I have visited Hawaii, but it was in pre-coqui days.
    Is it an invasive species, yes. And I regret the effects on the Hawaiian ecosystem.

  14. Christine Bounds permalink
    November 23, 2010

    Keep Greenversations rocks…


  15. walker permalink
    February 9, 2011

    the coqui here don’t sing when it’s dry/hot…or when it’s cold, even with rain. Looks like San Juan has been dry lately and by the hotels I’d imagine they water the plants/grounds. No trees? What have they done?

  16. eli permalink
    February 25, 2011

    Actually it is not an occasional gentle chirp(unless in the city) by any means when in Puerto Rico. Especially in the mountainous regions , but we love the”din” b/c it is home. I find I am very lucky to fall asleep to the music of their chirp and miss it when I am gone.

  17. lords cricket tickets permalink
    July 16, 2011

    Good information….thanks!

  18. cheap quotes permalink
    July 18, 2011

    While it is music to ears in one part of the world it could be a nightmare to others. That is a good example of differences in the world. Maybe Hawaian needs to give these frogs a chance. They might get used to is and come to like it.

  19. Feeding Bearded Dragons permalink
    September 24, 2011

    I enjoyed the article. I think there are some people on here over-reacting quite a bit.

  20. Christine permalink
    October 7, 2011

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  21. steering conversion kit permalink
    October 18, 2011

    Thanks once again for all the details
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  22. Shine permalink
    October 28, 2011

    This is an old post. Any news about the coquís in Hawaii?

  23. Lina-EPA permalink
    January 6, 2012

    I’ll have an update soon. Thanks for your interest.

  24. Carmen A. Muniz(Nana) permalink
    February 14, 2012

    Querida Lina: Estoy planeando mi mudanza a Hawaii. Soy maestra sustituta en el Condado de Broward en la Florida y me encanta lo que hago. Tengo 53 anos y soy una jibara de Corozal, de las montanas.Me interesaria alquilar un cuarto en alguna hogar. Ayudar cuidando ninos, lo que haya que hacer. Asi me ubico y puedo hacer mi mismo trabajo alla.Y, definitivamente cerca de los coquies que adoro. Si puedes ayudarme o conoces quien pueda seria fantastico.Quiero trabajar aca hasta junio pues estoy dando tutorias y ensenando espanol a diferentes estudiantes. Son mi responsabilidad en este momento.Ya a mitad de junio me puedo embarcar. Gracias. Sinceramente, Nana

  25. Mikayla K. Maya Herendez permalink
    March 6, 2012

    Puerto Rico has the only coquies that sing, out of 200 species of coquies Puerto Rico has the only red eyed coquies that sing at night and nest in the morning. It is a true fact I done so much reseach about Puerto Rico no I’ve never been there but soon I will to see my family. Half my family lives their and they send me videos and pictures I know they how life of coquies. What they eat and I know its a fact the only coquies that sing ARE IN PUERTO RICO!!! If a frog sings somewhere else it a fact their not coquies. People have put coquies (coquis) in other islands for exaple Hawaii but they won’t sing. Coquies sing (coooo—kiiii) Co means for male coquies to back off and kiii is a mating call. It takes a few days to find one coqui and they are 1 inch! SO don’t go all hawaii on coquies because your 100% wrong

  26. Mikayla K. Maya Herendez permalink
    March 6, 2012

    They only coquies in the coqui in the species out of 200 coquies the only king that sings Is the one in Puerto Rico

  27. Mariah permalink
    March 8, 2012

    Coquies only sing in Puerto Rico the only real Coqui has red eyes duhhhh xD

  28. Lina-EPA permalink
    March 8, 2012

    I also thought that coquís only sang in Puerto Rico, but it seems otherwise. They are able to survive in other tropical environments.

  29. April 17, 2012

    you have a excellent sites in this article! would you like to make a few invite posts on my blog?

  30. April 17, 2012

    There may be noticeably a bundle to find out about this. I assume you made sure nice factors in features also.

  31. June 10, 2012

    We have a similar issue in Queensland with cane toads. They were introduced back in the 1800s to control sugar cane moths but ended up having no natural predators. They have now travelled and spread to most states in Australia. The good news is that black crows have adapted to become a natural predator. They can kill and eat the toads while avoiding the poison sacks in the toads’ heads. Thanks for your post.

  32. Chat permalink
    September 20, 2012

    Very nice thanks

  33. eieio permalink
    October 16, 2012

    4 years and counting.

    If it gets out of control on the island of Oahu, where most of the population of Hawaii lives, people will get very, very angry. Or they will be complacent, and we will live with the frog as we live with graffiti. I warned my friends and family to take this issue seriously. The article seems cute with a light warning.

    Watch this event carefully. It is in its infancy. Godzilla is still small and cute.


  34. Lina-EPA permalink
    October 28, 2012


    It’s been a while! Thanks for sharing the article. Mahalo,

  35. Kirkland Jones permalink
    November 28, 2012

    As part of my Doctoral research I studied the Coqui in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands. Coquis “sing” on all of the islands. There are 13 other closely related species of frogs on Puerto Rico and all of them “sing” but only one has the call that we call Coqui. The body size of Coqui is different depending on the altitude they are found. Close to the top of the highest mountain the call is much slower and much lower in frequency. A number of years ago it was reported that some small populations of Coqui had been established in Florida. They were reported to “sing” there.

  36. Lina-EPA permalink*
    December 5, 2012

    Thank you, Dr. Jones
    Did you publish your thesis? Sounds very interesting.

  37. alrazaak permalink
    March 7, 2013

    Is there a place online that one can listen to the sounds of these frogs?

  38. nicole smith permalink
    September 5, 2013

    i love this kind of animals, we need to be more concern about its natural habit, alot of people drop trash like this dangerous car battery acids.

  39. Jules permalink
    November 16, 2013

    The concentration of the coqui in Hawai`i is considerably higher than it ever was in Puerto Rico. Even with double-paned windows closed, an air conditioner running, and a pillow over the head, there is no way to escape the cacophony for those of us in an infested area. It’s not a gentle chirping; it’s not a sweet song – it is disruption from dawn to dusk. You’re welcomed to have them back in Puerto Rico.

  40. Lina-EPA permalink*
    November 19, 2013

    Sorry to hear that Jules. Last time I was in Hawaii, it was prior to the coqui era. So I cannot compare.


  41. lilkeegsy permalink
    March 6, 2014

    is this real life

  42. Doris permalink
    June 26, 2014

    Coquíes are in danger of extinction in Puerto Rico and actually two of them are already extinct – the Coquí Dorado and the Coquí Palmeado. Hawaiians don’t have to kill the Coquí frog, send all the Coquí frogs to Puerto Rico, please, we love that frog.

  43. Travis permalink
    April 7, 2015

    Great post. This is very interesting. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

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