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'Aliens' Hit 'Coconut Island'
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Most of south China's Hainan Province has been invaded by an alien species of coconut leaf beetle, which is posing an unprecedented threat to trees of the palm family in the province such as coconut palms. 

Hainan's forestry officials have called for more efforts and funds to save the trees on the island, which is nicknamed "the island of coconuts."


Statistics from Hainan Provincial Forestry Department show that more than 1.8 million trees of the palm family on the island are currently infected with the pest, which is also named coconut hispid or palm leaf beetle.


According to Zhou Yanhua, vice director of Hainan Forestry Bureau, the beetle was first discovered in the province in June 2002.


By January, the species has affected an area of 390,000 hectares in the province, where there are a total of nearly 8.2 million trees of the palm family. Sixteen of the province's 18 cities and counties are affected.


In January alone, an additional 2,600 trees were infected and 3,800 more showed symptoms. The disaster has so far caused economic losses of over 100 million yuan (US$12 million).


Experts warned that if the pest is not effectively brought under control, all of the coconut palms on the island could be destroyed.


Since 2003, the central government and the provincial government have allocated 7.5 million yuan (US$906,000) for the disaster relief work.


(China Daily February 19, 2005)

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