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Manoa to Pigs: Drop Dead!

Manoa Residents have more to worry about than just rising property taxes—they’ve got pigs. Here’s what they’re aiming to do about it.


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It’s believed that Polynesian voyagers brought the first pigs to the Hawaiian Islands around 750 A.D., and that these boars later mated with another breed brought by Europeans. The resulting swine are public enemy No. 1, as they trample, eat and dig through forests; disturb soil; and transmit diseases, including leptospirosis.

There are 4.5 million to 5 million wild hogs in the United States, though it’s difficult to determine the size of the local feral pig population. “They’ve been traveling from Manoa down into Nu‘uanu and Palolo, and from Palolo, they’ve been crossing [back] over into Manoa,” says Pascual Dabis, a volunteer hunter with the Department of Natural Land and Resources (DNLR) and Hawaiian Humane Society.

illustration: Michael Austin

Dabis is part of a group which worked to begin controlled pig hunts in Manoa. State Sen. Kirk Caldwell led the call to arms. “The community wants this,” says Caldwell. “People were concerned about the loss of undergrowth and flooding.”

The hunts were approved by the neighborhood board this past July and will begin pending the results of a baseline study to count the number of pigs. Hunters selected by DNLR, equipped with knives, bows and arrows, and dogs, will concentrate their efforts on the trails and forest abutting the Woodlawn area, where the greatest number of pig-related disturbances has been reported. All of the pigs caught and killed will be removed from the area. “We’ll have lau lau and kalua pig,” says Dabis.

For 66-year-old Manoa resident Sarah Preble, the hunts could not come soon enough. Preble, who lives in the Woodlawn area, has had 22 pigs removed from her property. The pigs ate plants, uprooted banana trees and dug holes. “We need to do something,” says Preble. “When rats and mice become excessive and invasive, we get rid of them. Why not pigs?”

“[The hunts are] cruel and not necessary,” counters Cathy Goeggel, the director of research and investigation for Animal Rights Hawai‘i, a nonprofit group. The group believes that a form of contraceptive vaccine, similar to what has been used successfully to control African elephant, and white tail deer, would be a humane alternative to the hunts, though a vaccine that could be used on pigs does not yet exist.

DNLR and other associated organizations are unsure how many pigs they’ll catch. The plan is to hold the hunts every month for a year, then report back to the community board to see if the hunts are making a difference.

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