Everyday Hawaii Animals
To really know our islands you should know the animals in Hawaii. They scurry through the bushes, skip across scraggly lava, and fly through the air. Allow me to introduce you to a few everyday Hawaii animals.
Mongoose (Small Asian type)
The first one to meet is the cute but unappreciated mongoose. You’ll see this furry little rascal running across the road in front of your car, or slipping out of a bush to grab an old french fry. He looks like a streamlined squirrel, that’s a mongoose.
How Mongoose Arrived to Hawaii
You have to know the silly story of how he got here.
In the early 1800s many boats arrived in Hawaii, and on-board, along with sailors and sugarcane workers, there were rats. Thousands of them, running everywhere. That’s when some ‘not so brilliant’ Hawaii Sugar Cane owners came up with a plan to get rid of them.
They knew that mongooses eat rats, so in 1883 they brought in mongooses to get the rats. There were many mongooses (not “mongeese”) ready to swallow up the rats but some genius missed one small detail- The mongooses run around all day and sleep at night, and rats sleep all day and come out at night, so they never see each other. Now there is a mongoose problem and a rat problem. That’s the mongoose story.
There’s a mongoose problem on all the islands but Kauai, the people there didn’t want the furry critters eating all their chickens so they would not let the boat drop off any mongooses.
Let’s squelch a made-up rumor right now, mongooses did not eat the snakes in Hawaii, there were never any snakes in the islands. So if you ever hear an expert at a party expounding this false mongoose fact, kindly correct him.
Pig (wild boar)
Moving right along with everyday animals in Hawaii, there is the noble pig.
Actually they are what we know as wild boars but in Hawaii they are just pigs. This grunting beast is always black, furry and wild. And scary with big curved tusks.
For the longest time it was believed that Captain Cook, the famous explorer brought pigs to Hawaii in 1778. Although he did bring a few pigs and chickens, further studies proved that most of the pigs first arrived in Hawaii 800 years ago with the first Polynesians. Captain Cook’s pigs were kind of like tourists arriving later, greeted by Hawaiian pigs.
Hawaiians and locals hunt them. It’s a real ‘feed the family’, macho thing and part of the culture for 500 years. Along with surfing and shopping, pig-hunting is a big sport in Hawaii. Maybe you saw one being pulled out of an imu (ee’-moo) at a luau.
There are wild goats and sheep but they are mostly for looks and local ambiance along the highway. People love to see the cute little goats walking across the the crunchy a’a (ah-ah) lava.
Myna (or Mynah) Bird
But let us return to the everyday Hawaii animals you see around beaches, towns and vacation rentals. The little king of the local birds is the chatty Myna bird. Yes, folks, those small cocky brown birds with the yellow beak are real live, exotic Myna Birds, the kind that cost $200 in a pet store. But here they’re like any other bird on the street.
Another mind-blower is that Peacocks are wild here. I always thought these colorful, fantastical birds only lived in zoos but no, they are wild and natural in a few islands here.
A few varieties of parrots are wild but not the Macaw you take a picture with, they’re from Mexico and South America.
Just to let you know, there are no wild monkeys in Hawaii, or for that matter, any leopards or tigers. These wild animals are only in Mexico, Africa and movies.
But there are dinosaurs on Kauai and Oahu, Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus and Velociraptors, but only when the Jurassic Park film crew is here. That’s where the dinosaur movies are filmed. Jurassic Park (1993) and Jurassic World (2015) were filmed in Kauai and Oahu. You want to view those islands, watch Jurassic Park movies.
King Kong vacations on Kauai, but only when his film crew is here. Kauai is where King Kong made his recent pictures. When he visits he always reserves a really big vacation rental (from HomeyHawaii.com) and truckloads of bananas.
While Jurassic Park and King Kong frequent Hawaii, it’s unlikely you’ll ever catch Star Wars in these parts (at least not yet). But for the next best thing to Ewoks check out the tiny Menehune in Hawaii-set animated film The Legend of Hallowaiian. You won’t find any real ones in the jungles of Hilo, though, but they are based on a real legend. And seeing as many legends stem from some form of truth, who knows – perhaps you’ll see one and discover a magical new species!
But there really are Axis Deer in Hawaii. These charming creatures roam around Molokai, Maui and the Big Island. In 1860 The leader of Hong Kong made a present of the deer to King Kamehameha V. They lived on Molokai and they’ve been here ever since.
A very interesting fact is that Axis Deer have only been on the Big Island since 2016. A small herd mysteriously appeared near Waimea one day. It is believed that people wanting to get rid of them for eating their crops flew the deer from Maui to Hawaii in helicopters and dropped them off. A few deer complained they didn’t get their bag of pretzels on the flight.
We will skip the Humpback Whales, the dolphins and the Nene Goose. They are so popular, and on the cover of so many tourist magazines, they must have press agents. We’re giving the other Hawaii animals center-stage this time.
Now we must mention Monk Seals, the lounge lizards of the beach. You’ll see these loveable small seals kicking back on Hawaiian beaches, so close to the tourists you think they’ll put up a beach umbrella.
Don’t get too close to a Monk Seal or they will bite you. Then a park ranger will give you a citation that will bite you for many thousands of dollars for getting close to a protected animal. Best to use the telescopic lens with the Monk Seals.
Hawaiian Green Turtle
Another lounger on the beach is the Hawaiian Green Turtle, they are mostly known by their Hawaiian name, Honu (Ho’-new). You’ll see their dusty, encrusted shells as they flop for hours in the same spot on the sand. They get big, sometimes three feet long, and they are a real exotic event when you see them on the sand.
Do not put you foot on one and stand flexing your arm for a picture. The fine for that is $10,000. Let your smart phone take the picture of the Honu twenty feet away. Prepare for your next trip and check out the Best Turtle Snorkeling Locations in Hawaii by island.
I will leave you with one surprising fact about Hawaii animals: believe it or not, there are no seagulls in Hawaii.
Now you know about the everyday animals in Hawaii. You know the funny mongoose story, when the pigs arrived, and about the flying deer. You know the local history and secrets. You’re getting closer to being a real kama’aina, child of the land, local person.
Dennis Gregory is a long-time writer, he lives in Kona, Hawaii. In 1970 he founded the first literary magazine at the University of Hawaii, Hilo. Since then he has published novels, poetry books and writes a column for the local paper in Kona. He is also an artist and musician.
7 thoughts on “Everyday Hawaii Animals”
It is a good article, if I say so myself and the pictures by Elena are fantastic!
Dennis is so very good at describing our local animals places and events. He does a good job with the history of the islands also. I will look forward to more of his writing.
Love your articles. Fun to read.
Miss you. Nan
I’m writing an essay for school and this really helped!