If confirmed that the coconut rhinoceros beetle has penetrated Rota, the invasion would be “unprecedented” and could worsen the island’s economic struggle, according to Sen. Teresita Santos (R-Rota).
She told Saipan Tribune that an infestation of coconut rhinoceros beetle could affect Rota’s domestic economy since the beetle attacks coconut trees, an important source of food, shelter, and raw materials.
“Any invasive species is a threat to the health of our plants, forests and/or trees,” said Santos.
The beetles, believed to be the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle, were discovered on Rota last week.
Rota CNMI Forestry has reported a total of 20 adult beetles and several larvae on one coconut tree that fell to the ground.
Rota Forestry has already notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. Samples of the beetle and their larvae were sent to Guam for examination.
The coconut trees in Guam were devastated by the beetles.
Santos urges the Department of Lands and Natural Resources to exercise stricter inspection on any means of transportation entering the CNMI.
“Similarly, [the Northern Marianas College- Cooperative Research and Extension Education Services], in close collaboration with DLNR Quarantine and our community, can assist in the early detection and/or eradication of such an invasive specie to avert the multiplication of these species’ population,” said Santos.
“In addition, effective quarantine, public education, and plant protection be strongly emphasized and/or applied to combat any invasive species that would destroy our plants, trees and forest,” added Santos.
The discovery of the beetle comes a month after Rota celebrated the 3rd Luta Coconut Festival, which highlighted the tree’s role in the lives of the people of Rota.