A persistent pig problem has resurfaced at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden as feral pigs dig up roots, knock down plants and turn grass into mud pits. The problem has grown exponentially after a contract to cull the pig population with the United States Department of Agriculture was allowed to lapse Sept. 30.
"Without them, I think that all our joggers and walkers and campers and fisher people would have a difficult time enjoying the garden," said Winnie Sinego, director of Honolulu Botanical Gardens, which consists of five gardens including Hoomaluhia.
A resolution (13-275) by the Honolulu City Council seeks to authorize a new contract with the USDA through Sept. 30 of next year. The council expects to pass the resolution during its meeting on Dec. 11.
"They damage the grass, they root it up,” Sinego said of the feral pigs. “They damage our native Hawaiian plants, (and) they damage all the ornamental plants also."
The new $53,000 contract will allow trappers to enter Hoomaluhia during off hours to set-up corral traps, non-lethal leg snaring and lethal neck snaring. According to the agreement, pigs taken out of the garden alive will be put down by rimfire rifle at close range. It’s up to Sinego whether to allow night shooting and pig hunting dogs inside the garden.
"I don't think we can ever eradicate them, but we want to maintain them so that they don't do too much damage," said Sinego.
In addition to destroying native plants and trees, feral pigs at Hoomaluhia pose a danger to visitors who may get too close. Weekend campers and early morning walkers often report seeing pigs to staff at the garden.
"We always worry that somebody might inadvertently just go between a mamma and her babies, and then what?” said Sinego.
The contract with USDA allows staff with the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services to work 44 hours during every two week period, excluding Sundays and federal holidays. The agreement allows APHIS-WS staff to monitor traps and snaring devices within Hoomaluhia at least once every 48 hours for animal welfare reasons.