More birds in Pacific face extinction

SOLOMON STAR NEWS

THREE more Pacific Island birds are threatened with extinction: the Marquesas Kingfisher, Nightingale Reed-Warbler and the Crow Honeyeater have all become listed as Critically Endangered, the highest threat category.

This is according to the 2009 Red List of threatened birds in the world compiled by BirdLife International in partnership with the IUCN (International Conservation Union).

Senior Technical Adviser to BirdLife International’s Pacific Division, James Millett said, “this is an indication of the grave environmental threats facing Pacific Islands”.

“For instance the Marquesas Kingfisher in French Polynesia is facing extinction because of the introduction of a predator from North America, the Great Horned Owl that is now consuming much of the wildlife on the island and that includes the Kingfisher,” he said.

“As so often happens the original intention of introducing a predator to control a targeted animal gets out of control.

“It is not only the Great Horned Owl that is endangering bird species in the Pacific, but rats, mongooses and the Brown Tree Snake as well.

“It is the Brown Tree Snake that was accidentally introduced into Saipan, probably in cargo, that threatens the Nightingale Reed-Warbler with extinction.

“The snake is a voracious predator that eats bird eggs and chicks,”  Mr Millet said.

He said that there are still mysteries surrounding the threats to some bird species, “and that is the case with the Crow Honeyeater in New Caledonia”.

“Most of the Crow Honeyeaters have disappeared from the forests and survive in one or two areas on the main island of Grand Terre.  This is a real ecological puzzle that obviously must be solved quickly.”

In addition to predators the other overwhelming threat to birds in the region is the destruction of their habitat through deforestation.

Mr Millett said that conservation efforts can make a difference.

“We are working with our regional partners, and that includes landowners, to implement programmes to protect endangered species through the protection of the forests and the control of predators, and we have met with some success.”

Of great importance, according to Mr Millett is the “Species Guardian Initiative” launched by BirdLife where a local organisation becomes The Guardian of a threatened bird”.

So far, two organisations have signed up to become Guardians for three of the Pacific’s rarest birds: the Fiji Petrel, Tahiti Monarch and Polynesian Ground Dove.

Mr Millett said that efforts are now underway to find Species Guardians to help protect the three new critically endangered species from extinction.

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Filed under animals, biodiversity, conservation, endangered, environment, environmentalism, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

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