Field Research

Satellite Populations Keep Threatened Populations Safe

New populations of birds can be established through the process of translocation, the intentional and planned release of birds to the wild to establish a new population. In the Mariana Islands, translocation is used to remove a species from an island where there is an overwhelming local threat from the brown tree-snake so as to create a satellite population on another island where it may be safe from extinction by this introduced predator. In a sense, the long-term intent of such an action is to create genetic reserves for endemic species whose source populations are potentially threatened with extinction.

The Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) program assists the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ Division of Fish and Wildlife by translocating birds to islands in the Mariana archipelago that are free of the brown tree-snake to establish self-sustaining, satellite populations; and, by identifying when additional populations should be established either in human care or in the wild.

Jennifer Smith gently holds a Golden White-eye
Senior Aviculturist Jennifer Smith holds a Golden White-eye, one of the focus species of the MAC Project. The birds receive health exams prior to translocation to snake-free islands.

Cooperating with MAC and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the National Aviary sends staff members to the Mariana Islands to assist in the translocation of select species of birds. Our staff has participated in the field trapping of targeted species on the islands of Saipan and Tinian with the subsequent translocation of these birds to other snake-free islands in the archipelago.

In 2014, staff assisted in the translocation of 51 Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons) to the island of Sarigan. In 2016, staff assisted in the translocation of 48 Saipan White-eye (Zosterops conspicillatus) and 54 Tinian Monarch (Monarcha tatatsukasae) to the island of Gugnon. In 2018, 51 Golden White-eye (Cleptornis marchei) and 49 Rufous Fantail were translocated to the island of Alamagan.

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