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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2006

So who's the more invasive?

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

Not too many years ago, during a visit to a "country" school (as opposed to a "town" school), some kids there asked if I wanted to buy "smoke meat" for a club fundraiser. There was a cooler in the back of the classroom with big hunks of ... beef? pork? goat? still not sure double-bagged and packed in ice. Twenty dollars.

Where did they buy the prepared meat for the fundraiser? The kids looked at each other like they couldn't believe such ignorance. Bought?! This not Zippy's chili or Liliha pound cake, Missus. This not the city, this is country. We wen hunt 'em, clean 'em, smoke 'em, now we selling 'em.

The pork, or whatever it was, was 'ono.

One man's threat is another man's fundraiser. One man's invasive species is another man's pa'ina.

All the trouble and worry over feral pigs in Manoa would not happen in Wai'anae or Waimea or Waiakea.

There, a pig problem is when there aren't enough to go around for all the parties at graduation season.

Honolulu's pig problem is so urban and so modern. Not that it's not a problem, but so much of it is about context.

In a different place, or perhaps a different time, there wouldn't be community meetings. There would be community barbecues.

Complicating matters is the contemporary value system of high-minded, well-off urban dwellers. They want to live close to nature, but they want it to keep its moldy, muddy, unruly distance. They don't want animals on their property other than Fluffy and Bowser and the occasional shy gecko, but they don't want rifles or arrows or talk of a bounty or an imu, either. They want something clean, sensitive and lab-tested, like piggy birth control.

Two years ago, to address similar concerns about the burgeoning feral pig population, a controlled hunt was conducted in the uplands from Makiki to Manoa. The hunters could go with only knives and dogs, no guns. Give chance, yeah?

Perhaps far mauka in a muddy rainforest, the pigs gather at community meetings to talk about quality-of-life issues. Some of the sows raise concerns that their piglets have been shooed and shot at. Some of the young boars complain that they are being denied access to the best bamboo shoots in the valley. Old-timer pigs talk about when they could go wherever they wanted all along the stream bed without running into fences or driveways or screaming people.

The pigs would have a pretty good argument that humans are the most invasive of species, that we're ruining the landscape, polluting the water, pulling up stands of trees, tearing up grasslands, and contributing to floods and mudslides and erosion. Because we are.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.