There are actually 16 species of Coquíes on Puerto Rico, and 13 of them occur in El Yunque rainforest. Tourists in Puerto Rico delight in the tiny frogs kept in miniature habitats in the souvenir shops; the shopkeepers will tell you all sorts of marvelous things, like the Coquí is a protected species, and you can't take them off the island or they will die. In fact, I refer the reader to http://www.exploretravel.com/trips/PR.html to get a brief glimpse of the way Puerto Rico and the coquí are marketed to potential tourists. I spent a lot of years believing that Coquíes were really something uniquely Puerto Rican.
But alas, no. While Puerto Rico is famous for their Coquíes, species have been taken to Panama, Florida, and even Hawaii, where the frogs are considered pests. There are hundreds of species of Eleutherodactylus native to Mexico, Argentina, and Cuba. However, only Puerto Rico has embraced the frogs as a part of their advertised culture and named them "Coquíes." In Cuba, for example, the frogs are called Colines.
Hawaiians especially hate the Coquí. The frog was introduced to the Hawaiian islands in the 1990s, and immediately made itself at home. The complaints are that the frogs keep people from sleeping at night (with their loud "co-KEE" calls) and that the frogs are decreasing the populations of the native insects, even endangering several species. Residents are encouraged to catch any coquis they hear and turn them in to be exterminated. In fact, the frogs are hated so much that:
Any person or organization who intentionally transports, harbors or imports with the intent to propagate, sell, or release the coqui is in violation of State law and may be charged with a class C felony and subject to a minimum fine of $50,000 and maximum fine of $200,000, plus 3 years in prison. - http://hawaiiag.org/hdoa/coqui.htm
There have been moves by the Puerto Rican government to attempt to stop the extermination of the Coquí in Hawaii
, with the governor last year spewing rhetoric about the coquí being a "national symbol" and denouncing the use of a caffeine mixture to cause cardiac arrest in the frogs. This has done little but outrage Hawaiians who are concerned about the effects of the frogs on the environment
and feel, unlike most Puerto Ricans, that the frog
s sound like nails on a blackboard.
But, in any case, it's a sort of urban legend or touristy myth that the frog
s only survive on Puerto Rico, although there are a few species of Eleutherodactylus
which originate on the island, having only been exported via potted plant material or smuggling tourists to other locations.