Mongooses in Hawaii Newspapers

If you think mongooses are cute, then you should know that they create $50 million in damage in Hawaii and Puerto Rico yearly, have dramatically decreased the native bird population, and can carry the potentially lethal leptospirosis. If they're so annoying, how did these non-endemic animals get here?

In 1883, at the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island, the Pacific Sugar Mill received seventy-two small Asian mongooses from Jamaica. The owners thought the weasel-like carnivores would eat the rats damaging the sugarcane. Afterwards, those mongooses' descendents were shipped to plantations on Oahu, Maui, and Molokai. With virtually no natural predator in Hawaii, the mongoose population increased exponentially, from the original seventy-two to the thousands we have today.

Unfortunately, as mongooses were alert during the day, and rats, at night, the former didn't really exterminate the latter. Instead, the mongooses preyed on ground birds and their eggs. They virtually exterminated the Newell's shearwaters on four Hawaiian islands and nearly drove the native bird nene to extinction (from 25,000 in 1778 to 30 in 1952).

Mongooses were and still are a huge environmental issue in Hawaii, which Hawaii newspapers heavily covered in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In an 1895 editorial, the commissioner of agriculture, Joseph Marsden, defends introducing the mongoose. "Mongoose Joe" argues the mongooses are significantly reducing the number of rats, mice, and insects. However, Jacob Coerper argues in 1905 while the mongoose was brought to exterminate insects, it was also exterminating their natural enemy, the lizard.

In 1904, the government of Samoa was considering importing mongooses for rat extermination. However, somebody from Hawaii wrote to the Samoans, advising against the importation and the negative environmental consequences the mongooses brought to Hawaii.

Beyond the plantations, the mongooses settled in Honolulu. In 1911, The Hawaiian Star reported the mongooses stealing eggs in the Kaimuki area. A mongoose would spit at a hen's face, enraging the hen into a fit. Then the mongoose would swipe an egg. In another incident, a lady noticed eggs kept disappearing from her hen-house. To investigate, she hid herself in the hen-house and watched as a mongoose whistled, which fascinated the hen. Then the mongoose swiped the eggs with an egg in both its mouth and tail.

To exterminate the mongooses, in 1916, the territory of Hawaii offered a bounty of ten cents for each dead mongoose head.  In 1921, counties of Hawaii did the same.

However, the sugar industry opposed the extermination. H.P. Agee argues the mongoose has reduced the rat population in Hawaii and Jamaica and the state spends money on eradicating mongooses when its efforts will fail anyways. Henry Alexandar Baldwin, a sugarcane plantation manager at Alexander & Baldwin, downplays the mongoose's negative impacts and says people should "give the devil his due."

Today, the State of Hawaii considers the mongoose an invasive species and traps and poisons them for population control. The descendents of the original seventy-two are still thriving in all of the major Hawaiian islands except for Kauai. Oh wait, actually Kauai just got its first confirmed mongoose capture in May 2012.

-Alice Kim

Articles in Hawaii Newspapers

"The Mongoose in Hawaii"
Evening bulletin., December 05, 1895, Image 1

"Our Mongoose Joe"
The Independent., April 25, 1898, Image 1

"Destruction of Birds by the Pestiferous Mongoose"
The Honolulu republican., July 31, 1900, Page 7, Image 7

"Petted Mongoose Seized: An Island Export 'Frisco Won't Take"
The Hawaiian gazette., January 31, 1902, Page 6, Image 6

"The Deadly Mongoose: How One Alarmed the Citrus Belt"
The Hawaiian gazette., April 18, 1902, Image 5

"The Mongoose Question"
The Hawaiian gazette., June 28, 1904, Image 4

"Take Warning from Honolulu: Samoa Discussing Importation of the Mongoose to Kill Rats"
The Hawaiian star., December 06, 1904, SECOND EDITION, Image 1

"Mongoose vs. Lizard"
The Maui news., April 15, 1905, Page 3, Image 3

$2,500 for getting rid of the mongoose proposed by the Senate
The Hawaiian star., April 16, 1909, SECOND EDITION, Page THREE, Image 3

"The Onlooker: By the Man at the Tailor Shop" ("The mongoose have again become a nuisance in the Kaimuki district and chicken-raisers are up in arms against the pestiferous littler ichneumon.")
The Hawaiian star., July 08, 1911, SECOND EDITION, SECOND SECTION, Image 9

"Cash Prizes Offered to Most Successful Hunters of Mongoose"
The Maui news., September 09, 1921, Page PAGE SIX, Image 6

"Mongoose Not So Bad as He Is Pictured"
The Maui news., August 05, 1921, Page NINE, Image 9

"Mongoose Slaughter Meets with Opposition from Sugar Industry"
The Maui news., August 12, 1921, Page NINE, Image 9

"Knows No Method to Exterminate Mongoose Writes Biologist"
The Maui news., January 03, 1922, Page PAGE SIX, Image 6