The oceanic Hawaiian damselfly is one of many Hawaiian animals suffering from lengthy bureaucratic listing delays. There are 20 Hawaiian animals on the current candidate list and on average they have been waiting there for 14 years.
First placed on the candidate list: 1984
Years waiting for protection: 20
Range: Hawaii
Habitat: streams and marshes

The oceanic Hawaiian damselfly has beautiful, translucent wings and a black body interspersed with red or green depending on its gender. It was placed on the federal candidate list for Endangered Species Act protection in 1984. Twenty years later it is still on the list, still unprotected, and still sliding toward extinction. Today there are just seven populations remaining and a total population of less than 1,000 damselflies.

Four Hawaiian animals paid the ultimate price for bureaucratic listing delays. Achatinella taeniolata, Achatinella viridans, Achatinella pupukanioe, and Achatinella bellula were all petitioned to be listed as endangered species in 1976, but disappeared before they were put on the endangered species list in 1981.
This animal begins life as an egg, hatches into a predacious naiad which stalks streambanks for other aquatic invertebrates or swims after small fish, 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.

Almost all the streams and marshes on Oahu, the most heavily populated Hawaiian island and home to the oceanic Hawaiian damselfly, have been severely altered and degraded by agricultural diversions and urban development. Even some whose morphology remains intact have been rendered inhospitable by the introduction of non-Hawaiian animals. Over 2,500 species of alien invertebrates are now established in the islands, with more arriving in cargo holds every year. Dozens of fish species have also been introduced. Several of the new insects and fish prey on damselflies.

graphic Andrew Rodman ©2002
May 2, 2004
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