Saipan-- Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig has declared a state of "significant emergency" for his municipality following the discovery of another site infested with coconut rhinoceros beetles, which threaten the island's agriculture.
The rhino beetle infestation was discovered in the Gagani and Talakhaya areas on Sept. 12, following a tip received by the Department of Lands and Natural Resources.
CRB Field Supervisor Mark C. Manglona, reported to the scene and confirmed the CRB infestation through drone surveying. Decaying coconut trees and scissor cuts on the palm leaves were spotted via drone.
On Sept.13, the CRB team immediately began dissecting trees, setting traps, and logging CRB findings. Volunteers throughout the week, from the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and from the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, assisted the CRB team with this pressing matter.
Atalig expressed the urgency on the matter to heighten aggressive eradication management before matters become out of control.
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The areas of concern are Talakhaya, Gagani, Poña Point, Gu’a, and along the Oggog stream, which comprises 978,749 square meters. Rota DLNR Resident Director David M. Calvo reported the following CRB findings: 250 unaged grubs, 411 instars, 27 adult males, and 40 adult females. This new site is four miles from the original CRB containment areas, Tweksberry Beach Park and Papau (Liyo).
Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Anthony Benavente met with Atalig and the Invasive Species coordinator Frank LG Aldan, to develop preventative measures for the CRB reaching Tinian and Saipan. Benavente is exploring other methodologies and strategies in communication with USDA Guam and University of Guam.
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios were made aware of the situation and stress the importance of addressing and containing the outbreak. The Governor emphasized that we cannot do this alone and requires participation from the public as Rota fights this battle.
Collaboration with local landowners is critical to help solve this problem. Plans are in place for urgent public outreach to inform the public of the new sighting and seek their involvement to support the CRB team’s efforts. The Municipality of Rota is optimistic in containing the spread of the CRB with continual support from the general public, federal partners, and the administration.
The highly invasive species was first discovered on Rota in October 2017. On Guam, rhino beetle infestation has decimated the island's coconut population,
In May, the Office of Insular Affairs awarded $239,994 to the University of Guam College of Natural and Applied Sciences in response to a grant proposal titled “Establishment of Self-sustaining Biological Control of Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Biotype G in Micronesia” submitted by Aubrey Moore, an entomologist at the University of Guam.
Part of the funding will be used for partial support of an existing project to implement self-sustaining control of CRB throughout Guam by introducing an insect disease caused by a naturally occurring insect virus that infects only rhino beetles. This virus is called Oryctes rhinoceros nudivirus, or OrNV.
Different strains of OrNV have been very effective in providing long-lasting control of rhino beetles on many Pacific Islands. Typically, after the virus is introduced into the CRB population, damage to coconut palms and other palms falls to very low levels within a few months and stays at those low levels indefinitely.