Rob Mortensen and Katherine Finch
Unique evolutionary histories make island ecosystems incredibly vulnerable, especially when it comes to the introduction of invasive species. Conservation of birds in the Pacific Islands has become increasingly important because of this very threat.
Brown tree snakes were accidentally transported to the island of Guam in the 1940s and wreaked havoc on the island’s ecology. Many of the birds that once inhabited Guam are now extinct in the wild, including the Micronesian Kingfisher which now only exists in captivity at the Aquarium of the Pacific and several other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facilities.
Several sightings of the snake have been recorded on the Northern Marianas over the past decade, and in response CNMI Fish and Wildlife have teamed up with AZA zoos and aquariums from around the country to help protect the island chain’s native birds from suffering the same fate.
Assistant Curator of Mammals Rob Mortensen and Mammalogist Katie Finch have traveled to the Northern Mariana Islands with the Marianas Avifauna Conservation Program for the past four years to help in the translocation of the endangered birds from vulnerable habitat to safer islands to the North. They will be discussing the Aquarium’s role in protecting the unique Pacific bird species that inhabit the Micronesian island chain and sharing some of the adventures they had along the way.