Why Were Mongooses Introduced to Hawaii?

In 1883, sugar cane farmers in Hawaii imported mongooses from India to keep a lid on the rat population in fields on Maui, Molokai, and Oahu. No one apparently thought to consider the consequences of introducing an invasive species that could wreak havoc on the islands’ birds, turtles and other native animals. And here’s the kicker: Rats are around at night and mongooses are active during the day, so their paths rarely cross.

Today, Hawaiians resort to mongoose-proof fencing and costly but ineffective eradication programs to try to keep these unwanted invaders out of nature sanctuaries and reserves.

Now look what you've done:

  • Mongooses can tolerate both wet and dry conditions, and can be found in gardens, grasslands, and forests. They’re a problem on the main islands, but are rarely seen on Lanai and Kauai.
  • Mongooses will eat birds, small mammals, reptiles, insects, fruits, and plants. They prey on the eggs and hatchlings of native ground-nesting birds and endangered sea turtles.
  • The mongoose emits a high-pitched noise, known as giggling, when it mates. The animals are commonly seen at roadside shows in Pakistan, where snake charmers pit them against snakes in mock battles.
More Info: New York Times

Discussion Comments


Humans are the quintessential invasive species. In their wake come a host of other invasive species, including the rats themselves. Most recent extinctions and threats of extinction are a result of habitat sequestration and destruction caused directly and indirectly by humans and the pests that live in association with them. It is irresponsible to talk about this matter as though humans were not the root cause of it all.

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