The beautiful oceanic Hawaiian damselfly is one of 23 damselfly species on the Hawaiian Islands, endemic to the island of Oahu. Damselflies begin life as an egg, soon hatching into a predacious naiad that stalks streambanks for other aquatic invertebrates or swims after small fish, and then molts into the mature form. In this last embodiment, the falcon-like damselfly swoops down on other flying insects such as midges. When the damselfly itself is disturbed, it takes refuge in the forest canopy overhanging the stream; when seized, it plays dead.
The oceanic Hawaiian damselfly is one of many Hawaiian animals suffering from lengthy bureaucratic listing delays. It was placed on the federal candidate list for Endangered Species Act protection in 1984. A quarter-century later it was still on the list, still unprotected, and sliding toward extinction.
In 2004 the Center petitioned for protection for the damselfly and other candidate species under the Endangered Species Act; in 2006 we filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force an endangered species listing for the damselfly and hundreds of other species languishing on the candidate list. Five years later, we reached a landmark agreement with the Service compelling it to move forward on decisions over protecting 757 species, including the oceanic Hawaiian damselfly — and less than a month later, the Service proposed to list the damselfly and 22 other Oahu species.
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1984 candidate status