Endangered species capital of the world

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What do 24 species of bird, 72 snails, 74 insects and 97 plants have in common? They're all native to Hawaii "“ or at least, they used to be "“ and their disappearance since Europeans landed there is part of why our 50th state is also the endangered species capital of the world.

The most isolated body of land in the world (save Easter Island) and home to an impressive array of microclimates, it's no surprise that Hawaii once boasted a staggering array of endemic flora and fauna. But that same isolation also makes Hawaii vulnerable to alien species "“ from sea creatures that stow away in the holds of passing ships to seed pods and animals imported by clueless settlers and tourists.

Thus far, 47 of the 100 world's worst invaders have made it their adoptive home. So expect an embarrassingly thorough search of your bags and person on your next Hawaiian vacation; it could make all the difference for one of the 300 Hawaiian species currently languishing on the endangered list.

January 4, 2007 - 4:33am
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