By Pacific Island Times News Staff
A live coconut rhinoceros beetle trying to hitch a ride to the Marshall Islands was intercepted at the Port Authority while the Guam Invasive Species Detector Dog Team was conducting routine search operations of exports.
According to a press release from the University of Guam’s Biosecurity Division, the highly invasive beetle, also known as CRB-Guam strain, was detected on a heavy equipment vehicle bound for Majuro, which remains rhino beetle-free.
“Upon discovery, the CRB was immediately secured and transferred to the Guam Department of Agriculture entomologist for confirmation and final disposition,” according to the biosecurity team. “Authorities at the Port Authority of Guam were notified of the find and secondary inspections of the vehicle were conducted.”
The coconut rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros), a native to Southeast Asia, was first detected in Guam in 2007 and has since eluded eradication efforts.
Resistant to traditional control methods, the rhino beetle has since spread throughout the Pacific island region including Rota, Palau, Samoa, Fiji, Oahu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
In June, two CRBs were found on Kauai near the Lihue airport, marking the first time that these beetles have been discovered outside of Oahu.
The invasive beetle is known to be a threat to coconut palms. In a 2020 report, the Pacific Community estimated that Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands could lose up to $158 million a year by 2040 as a result of damage to coconut trees alone.
Dr. Glenn Dulla, Guam’s biosecurity program principal investigator, said the interception of the rhino beetle at the port was “a significant event that validates all the investment this team and our collaborators have devoted over the past two years developing this project.”
He said the interdiction program also includes CRB trap networks around the ports, bio-control development and pesticide implementation.
“The dog teams act as the last line of defense to prevent the spread of invasive species throughout the region,” Dulla added.
According to UOG’s Biosecurity Division, the Guam Invasive Species Detector Dog Team's primary goal is to prevent the movement of invertebrate invasive species, such as CRB and little fire ant, from Guam to other Pacific islands through the use of detector dogs.
The program is a pilot project funded by the Office of Insular Affairs, managed by the Research Corporation of the University of Guam and located at the Guam Department of Agriculture, Biosecurity Division.
The team completed a 10-week certification course under the Guam USDA Wildlife Services in April and began operational searches in May.