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Agriculture steps up fight against rhino-beetles

Monday 7 October 2019 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Environment


Agriculture steps up fight against rhino-beetles
The Oryctes rhinoceros or CRB-G and the damage it does to coconut palms. Picture: Pacific Community/19100615

The Ministry of Agriculture says early detection and fast emergency response will be necessary to eradicate a new breed of coconut rhinoceros’ beetles.

Agriculture Cook Islands entomologist Dr Maja Poeschko said quarantine workshops in Rarotonga and the outer islands were being held to provide training on recognising the damage caused by these beetles.

“After any reporting, like in the case from Penrhyn, the ministry will be able to react quickly,” Dr Poeschko.

There were concerns of coconut-shredding rhinoceros’ beetles on Penrhyn but Ministry of Agriculture, after viewing photos of insects found on the island, said they were more likely red-brown weevils.

Ministry secretary Temarama Anguna-Kamana earlier said the insect in the worried islanders’ photos was most likely the red-brown weevil, Diocalandra taitensis. It has been recorded in the Cook Islands Biodiversity Database since 2004.

Dr Poeschko said the beetle’s life cycle is around 180 days and the adult lives up to nine months. It causes damages to coconut palms by chewing into the growing shoot resulting in the v-shape notches on the leaves.

According to the Pacific Community (SPC), the new biotype of coconut rhinoceros’ beetles is an imminent threat to the Pacific’s livelihood and economies reliant on coconuts; oil palm and other palm species

The Oryctes rhinoceros was first found in Guam in 2007 and new invasion sites are on Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

The New Zealand government is giving about $17.4 million to the fight off these pests before it spreads to other Pacific countries.