Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands. – Toledo Zoo staff were a part of the first-ever expedition to the remote island of Guguan in the Pacific Ocean this June. Staffers helped relocate Tinian forest birds as a part of the Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) program working in that area.
Ellen Gorrell (bird keeper) and Justin Grubb (biologist) traveled to Tinian on June 13 to assist in capturing Tinian monarchs (Monarcha takatsukasae) and bridled white-eyes (Zosterops conspicillatus). The goal was to catch 50 of each species and then relocate them to Guguan. The island chain’s bird populations have been decimated by the brown tree snake, an invasive predator on the islands of Guam and Saipan. These conservation efforts are proactive as the snake has not yet reached Tinian but other issues are facing the birds like habitat loss and invasive plant species. By moving these birds to another island along the chain, that population is distanced from the brown tree snake and also human disturbance. The MAC program established a safety population thus ensuring the survival of these birds for the near future.
The trip to Guguan was rugged and long. Ellen, Justin and the three other MAC program volunteers including co-founder Peter Luscomb of Hawaii, spent 20 hours on a Japanese fishing vessel to get to the island. They then had to maneuver through waves and volcanic rocks to get the birds safely on the island and to the release site. The transportation crates were stacked up and one by one the birds were released into the forest canopy. The relocation was successful and all of the birds made it to their new home in good health. After the release, the crew spent another 20 hours on the boat to get to Saipan.
To learn more about the expedition, visit http://www.wildtoledo.org/expedition-guguan/