How Endangered Snails Are Endangering Hawaiian Public Radio

The mating season of protected snails delay radio repairs during pledge season

Achatinella mustelina
A photo of Achatinella mustelina Gary Braasch/CORBIS

As if public radio stations aren’t facing enough problems, now they have to deal with snails, too. At least, as the Atlantic writes, Hawaii Public Radio is having to deal with a particular species of endangered tree snail, whose existence is threatening another endangered entity—the radio station.

Storms last month knocked out power to a relay station on Mount Ka’ala, where the endangered tree snail Achatinella mustelina makes its home. The snail had no natural predators until rats and a carnivorous snail species were introduced and started decimating the population of the slow-growing snail. The snails, which are important to Hawaiian culture, are the focus of several preservation efforts, including a preserve built a few years ago by the U.S. Army. Because of all the protective measures, repair crews can’t access the power lines that serve Hawaii Public Radio, leaving listeners in the audio dark (though they can listen online).

Adrienne LaFrance writes at the Atlantic:

Which is, on one hand, the NPRiest thing ever. On the other, it's a tidy metaphor for what's happening—and not happening—to public radio all over the country as listeners' habits evolve away from the airwaves and toward on-demand streaming. That is to say, despite bright spots of exception, radio has been slow to adapt. If print media has its dinosaurs, perhaps broadcast has its snails.

To make matters even worse, the outage came right at the start of the station’s annual pledge drive. 

“That our radio signal is not being heard on Kauai and on Oahu’s North Shore right now has meant that this important semiannual conversation with listeners in these areas has been interrupted,” Michael Titterton, HPR's president, told the Garden Island. “But, we are trying to be philosophical, take a cue from the snails, and remember that we’re here for the long haul and that there will certainly be those who step up to preserve our habitat.”

The station has extended its pledge drive in an attempt to meet its fundraising goal.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.