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Beetles threaten future of coconut trees

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Could you imagine living on a tropical island paradise without coconut trees?

For island leaders, this has become a growing concern as the coconut rhinoceros beetle may eat away at the island's number one industry.

The coconut tree if often called the tree of life - providing for our basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter - but local leaders are worried the trees will all fall victim to the wrath of the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

"Can you imagine our visitors coming here to look at our coconut trees without leaves or dead?," said Agana Heights Mayor Paul McDonald. He said the coconut tree is celebrated annually at their Coconut Festival, but that could come to an end if the rhino beetle population continues to thrive.

At a Guam Visitors Bureau press conference this morning, McDonald pleaded to Governor Eddie Calvo to declare a state of emergency to address the issue.

"Governor, I'm asking you to please consider calling a disaster mode for the coconut trees. It's very important that we address this situation," he said.

But it's not enough to throw money at the situation as Calvo admits, we need to find the solution first.

"The issue with this Mayor Paul is that this is something just hit us. Even when it comes to a solution we need to find what that solution is and because it has come so quickly and so dramatically I think some issues is that if you talk to some of the scientists in this thing they're still scratching their heads how to get it fixed? We've got money but you also need to know where to put the money," he said.

"The irony of all of this is as we start doing our forensics this whole crisis probably came about as a result of our golden egg, which is tourism. Because again there's some beautiful trees that came to Guam but with those beautiful trees that came to Guam, they came with an invasive species."

Although he didn't declare a state of emergency, Calvo did call to action the tourism stakeholders in attendance today.

"I think what we need to do collectively for all of you in the tourism service industry whether Department of Agriculture talked to you or not but take a look at your areas and the golf courses and take a look at your green waste and the green waste there's a lot of that's growing in there, that larva," he said.

Meanwhile, in a release from the University of Guam, the UOG Cooperative Extension Service Agricultural and Natural Resources Unit have partnered with visiting insect pathologists from New Zealand, Dr. Sean Marshall, to test bio-control measures for the rhino beetle. While on Guam, Marshall will be testing orcytes virus, which has been proven successful in controlling the rhino beetle populations in Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and Palau, as well as other Pacific islands.

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