Never Try to Kill a Rat with a Mongoose

By 1952, only 30 Nene (Hawaiian Goose) survived on the island of Hawaii due to invasive species such as the mongoose.

By 1952, only 30 Nene (Hawaiian Goose) survived on the island of Hawaii due to invasive species such as the mongoose.

A balmy December breeze wafted the scent of plumeria flowers all around us, and the Big Island surf crashed in the distance. Paradise. Our first long vacation without our children in twenty-five years of marriage and we had made it to Hawai’i to celebrate. As soon as it warmed up a little more, we would go snorkeling, but until then, we would look for birds.

I heard loud snarls from a clump of bushes and grabbed Pedro’s arm. “What’s that?”

“Cats fighting?” he replied with a shrug.

“No,” I pointed as a long creature with short legs and small rounded ears took off across the lawn of the park with another nipping at its heels. “That’s no cat!”

“Mongoose,” he said. “They’re nasty critters.”

“Ah, they’re kind of cute,” I responded. I lifted my camera and focused on the pair as they continued their antics and argument in a nearby pile of dead wood.

“There’s nothing cute about them,” he assured me. “I remember them from when I was a kid in Jamaica—they’re mean.”

I snapped some photos—not an easy feat since the only time they sat still appeared to be when they had achieved the safety of a brush pile or dense bushes. I shrugged and we continued our walk through the park in search of birds.

Introducing mongooses to the island did nothing to solve the rat problem.

Introducing mongooses to the island did nothing to solve the rat problem.

Later that evening, I researched the mongoose (I confess to having doubts about Pedro’s conclusion that mongooses harbored evil—after all, I’d heard about Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and how the mongoose in India will fight and kill the dreaded cobra).

I found that in the early 1880s, the rise of sugar plantations sparked a rise in the rat population—evidently, rats love gnawing on sweet things like sugar cane. Some plantation owners in Jamaica imported mongooses from India in the hope that the mongooses would keep the rat population in check (mongooses do eat rodents as well as snakes). The Hawaiian sugar cane plantation owners heard about the Jamaican experiment and decided to import mongooses to the Big Island—all without really researching the efficacy of their solution to the rat problem.

Mongooses, you see, sleep at night and they love snacking on eggs and birds. Rats, on the other hand, sleep during the day and skulk at night. The mongoose-to-kill-the-rats plan didn’t work. It only resulted in the destruction of native bird species—especially those that nested on the ground where mongoose could easily devour their eggs or even eat the birds.

Now Hawai’i has two invasive species to deal with—both of which breed like bunnies (a female mongoose can raise 2-3 litters of young each year, and each litter has 2-5 cubs). Introduced species have no natural enemies, so mongooses roam and multiply with impunity.

How often do we as humans treat the rat of bad habits the same way? We had a bad day at work? A cold beer will make us feel better, right? We got in a fight with our spouse? Chocolate solves everything, right? We can easily fall down a slippery slope of entanglement to habits we never meant to start if we harbor the wrong attitude towards disappointment, conflict and confusion.

Or we see a bigger problem in our lives and think we can handle it—that it’s annoying, but the latest How To book will solve our problem. So, we buy the book, register for the seminar or search the Internet for the perfect plan—although, sometimes, we forget to check the reviews or think about the practicality of our solution.

That’s why we should never try to kill a rat with a mongoose. We’ll probably make the problem worse by introducing an invasive species into our life. As humans, we need to acknowledge that we have selfish hearts and nothing we do on our own will engender lasting change.

Instead, we should search the Bible for wisdom, advice and help. Each time I grapple with rats in my life, Proverbs 3:5-6 has a way of popping up in my subconscious. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your path straight.”

And when rats of confusion gnaw on my peace, I remember Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I don’t need to import a mongoose—I can find the solutions to my needs from the author of life.

Today I’m linking up with Angie Ryg for Inspire Me Monday–I hope you’re inspired! Click here to find other inspiring thoughts to start your Monday out on a positive note.

Angie Ryg

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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