Hawaii's Invasive Species Might Be Cute, But They're A Huge Island Threat

11/08/2013 10:11 pm ET | Updated Nov 09, 2013

The Aloha State is famous for, well, its spirit of aloha -- you can feel it in the tropical breezes and sense it in the warm and welcoming people. But not everything is welcomed warmly here.

Take the giant poisonous plant that has recently been found spreading throughout Kauai. The Bingabing tree, which is already well established on Oahu and the Big Island, has huge leaves and forms dense thickets that shades and chokes out any surrounding plants. Spreading of these trees could threaten the Garden Island's beloved plant diversity and possibly turn the whole island into a Bingabing forest.

But gigantic leaves aren't Hawaii's only invasive problem. As the most isolated land mass on Earth, most of the native plant and animal population evolved without many of the world's more competitive and predatory species. In short, Hawaii's native species are more gentle than others, leaving them vulnerable to the "meaner" species that are only just being introduced to the islands.

So, who are these meanies? Meet the culprits below.

Bingabing Trees
macaranga mappa
Known for: Being too shady, choking out surrounding plants.

Coqui
coqui
Wanted for: Excessive loud noise, overpopulation, disrupting billionaire Larry Ellison's fantasy island.

Mongoose
asian mongoose
Known for: Stealing eggs of endangered species, including Hawaii's state bird and sea turtles, causing $50 million worth of damage every year.

Veiled Chameleon
chamaeleo calyptratus
Known for: Eating native Hawaiian birds, insects, plants and flowers.

Snakes
snake
Known for: The extinction of 9 out of 13 forest bird species and 3 species of lizards (brown tree snake), can cause power outages by climbing up electrical wires and boxes, could potentially cause up to $405,000,000 in damage annually. (Two snake sightings in the past few months on Oahu are putting authorities on high alert.)

Apple Snail
apple snail
Known for: Chewing through and damaging farmers' crops, carrying and transmitting rat lungworm, eating the food and habitat of native fish and birds.

Red-Whiskered Bulbul
pycnonotus jocosus
Known for: Spreading seeds of other invasive plants, being aggressive to native birds, eating native fruits, vegetables, plants and insects.

Killer Bees aka Africanized Honey Bee
africanized honey bee
Known for: Being a lethal threat to humans and animals, being easily angered.

For a full list of Hawaii's invasive species, visit HawaiiInvasiveSpecies.org. If you want to report an invasive species, call 808-643-PEST or report it online at ReportAPest.org.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included an image of a meerkat rather than a mongoose.

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