As birders, we all know that some of the places hardest hit by extinctions and extirpations are island nations. The longer help is delayed, the more difficult it will be to recover birds and other animals that have been hit. Most of the problems have to do with invasive or introduced species on these islands.
The Center for Biological Diversity and its allies recently informed the US Navy and Fish and Wildlife Service that they intend to sue if military activities that threaten multiple species, including Mariana Crows, do not cease. , Guam Micronesia Kingfisher (fighting in captivity), Guam Riels and a dozen other animals. The lawsuit was written on May 26, 2022 and is still pending filing.
In 2019, nearly 40 years after going extinct, the Guam rail (ko’ko’) once again roamed freely on two of the islands, close to its birth home.
During World War II, the Japanese occupied Guam, and when it was released in the 1940s, the invasive brown tree snake turned up as a likely stowaway in a military cargo and soon began consuming Guam’s animals. The snakes also took 10 of a dozen native forest birds. This also affected the spiders, which quickly spiraled out of control due to the loss of the birds that ate them. Eight years later, the remaining 21 rails were captured and their descendants released at Rota, 30 miles to the north. The rails were killed by cars and feral cats, but through captive breeding, there was hope, for a while, but it’s still not on the ground on the main island of Guam, due to invasive species. For now, they remain on the Cocos and Rota Islands for security reasons.
Sadly, there are still many other extinctions, including the Mariana Fruit Dove, Bridled White-Eye, Guam Flycatcher, Mariana Crow, Micronesian Honeyeater, and Nightingale Reed-Warbler. The problems are due to the brown tree snake and extensive habitat loss.
When the Navy relocated 5,000 Marines to Guam, more than 1,200 acres of land in the limestone forests of the Guam National Wildlife Refuge were destroyed. It has also endangered many of Guam’s plants and animals and caused severe disturbance to the forests.
The Navy failed to protect thousands of acres of kingfisher habitat or take other steps to mitigate the damage caused by additional military enhancement, leading to the destruction of the aforementioned species damaged by their machine gun range activity. That poses the destruction of the last remaining tree, since the ungulates prevent it from reproducing. The 30 trees promised to be planted were not. Also, the tree is exposed to typhoons that are getting stronger due to climate change.
This solitary adult mother tree is not allowed to reproduce because the military prevents it from doing so through habitat destruction in their own interest of building up their range, as well as fire and stray bullet damage from Distribution area.
The Mariana fruit bat, the Mariana eight-spot butterfly (already endangered), three species of tree snails, and six other native plants require help before they soon become extinct.
Deb Hirt is a professional photographer and wild bird rehabilitator based in Stillwater.