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Invasive species pose a grave, continuing threat to Hawaii’s native flora and fauna. Coqui frogs, Miconia, salvinia molesta, Albizia trees; large amounts of funding have gone towards eradicating these species among others to only modest effect. And after all, we are an invasive species. But there are at least two unusual, introduced species that have adapted to Hawaii’s environment without a discernable negative impact: the Hawaiian Rock Wallaby and the Rose-Ringed Parakeet. Exotic and elusive, these malahini (transplant) critters can sometimes be spotted by those with a little luck and a sharp eye.
Wallabies are marsupials, best described as tiny kangaroos. Native to a corner of southeastern Australia, the first wallabies in Hawaii were brought to Oahu in 1916 by Richard H. Trent in a failed effort to create a private zoo. One of the three was reportedly killed by wild dogs shortly after their arrival, and the breeding pair escaped into the wild. Soon after that headline-making incident, Trent would donate his collection of exotic animals, bears, monkeys, parrots and such to the Honolulu Zoo, and go on to become a trustee of Hawaii’s most revered institutions: Bishop Estate, Kamehameha Schools, and Bishop Museum.
Recent sightings have been documented in Kalihi Valley, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the small population has moved into neighboring Nuuanu Valley as well. Because they are non-native and non-threatening, the Department of Land & Natural Resources does not monitor their population. Wallabies are designated as protected game mammals by the Division of Forestry & Wildlife, and are therefore illegal to hunt.
I’ve recently learned that a group of parakeets is called a “chattering.” This is because one lives in the strand of monkey pod trees below my apartment. It’s an apt word. According to the Bishop Museum, Rose-ringed parakeets were first reported in the wild after escaping a nature park deep in the interior of Manoa Valley. The first sightings date back to 1960. They have since been spotted on the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai.
They are fairly widespread on Oahu, with permanent “chatterings” residing in Nuuanu, Manoa, Kapiolani Park, and a number of other locations throughout the island. They are quite loud in groups, and are most easily spotted in the mornings and evenings when they are most active. These mini-parrots are highly social. They do not mate for life, but they are monogamous. Neon green with a brilliant red beak, they are not hard to find if you are actually looking for them.
Although they sometimes compete for nesting sites with some native bird species, the rose-ringed parakeet appears to have had little, if any, negative impact. Along with the Hawaiian rock wallaby, these species have found a way to naturalize in environments not unlike those of their native lands. While other introduced, invasive, and alien species have wreaked havoc on Hawaii’s natural environment, the rose-ringed parakeet and Hawaiian rock wallaby have proven themselves good neighbors. Cute, too.