Conservation in Action: Visiting Saipan

May 11, 2019

My time in Saipan has come to an end. I now begin my journey back to the states. I fly from here to Guam, Guam to Japan, Japan to New Jersey, and then finally I arrive back home in Pittsburgh! 

This has been an incredible adventure with amazing people. We are ensuring that the birds of the CNMI persist for generations to come. This is an excellent example of proactive conservation, and it shows just how committed the Aviary is to protecting birds and saving habitats. 

The Mariana Islands may be extremely far away from Pennsylvania, but there are still many ways you can help these birds from home. Here are a couple of things you can easily do which will have a large impact:

1. Visit the National Aviary - all visits to the Aviary help support our conservation efforts worldwide. If you visit our gift shop, you can also find T-shirts supporting the MAC project. All proceeds from these shirts support this project. This is a very easy way to help the birds, and the T-shirts are beautiful!

2. Start with the small things - pick up trash, turn off the lights, recycle. These small actions have a huge impact. They also inspire larger actions down the line. 

3. Spread the word - many people are unaware that the Mariana Islands even exist! Saipan and the other islands are home to some of the rarest birds in the world. Education is key for projects such as these to succeed. 

I wanted to thank you for following along with this blog, and supporting the National Aviary's conservation efforts! I am so happy to have been able to share my trip with you. I will see you all in Pittsburgh soon!

May 9, 2019

The Super Emerald arrived back at port this morning around dawn with the news that every bird made it to the island, and they all flew enthusiastically out of their transport boxes. We are so happy that the translocation was a success and that all the birds are getting settled in to their new island. 

The boat team was also able to find Golden White-eyes on Alamagan that were without leg bands. This is huge! Let me explain... 

When a bird is released on to one of the northern islands, they are given an identification band, so we could find them again in the future. If there are non-banded birds on the island, that means the birds are breeding and thriving in their new habitat. The unbanded birds that the boat team saw are likely offspring from White-eyes which were translocated last year. 

I am so proud to be part of such an important project and to aid in this success. The National Aviary is actively protecting birds and saving habitats through this program and I feel so blessed to be involved. 

May 7, 2019

Today is the day the birds leave on their journey to Alamagan! The morning was spent checking all of the birds, moving them to their transport vessels, and verifying that they were fit for travel. This process takes close to 3 hours. 

The birds arrived at the dock around 2pm, and were loaded onto a boat named the Super Emerald along with six of our team members. The trip takes about 18 hours each way, so we will not be seeing the boat team for a while!


Super Emerald getting ready to leave for Alamagan!

In the meantime, it is up to the rest of the closing team to break down the bird room, inventory supplies, and make sure everything is clean and organized for next year. 

Soon the birds will be released on to Alamagan. I can't wait to update you on that next!

May 5, 2019

We have one more day before the boat departs for Alamagan. This means we need to start preparing the team for their long journey north. Six of our crew will be departing tomorrow with several members of the Division of Fish and Wildlife to release the birds on Alamagan. 

Today we are paying attention to the small details, like making sure the backpacks needed to move the birds onto the island fit each team member and that each person has a chance to practice walking in them. We also need to inventory all materials and make sure everything made it back from the field. We take time to make repairs to all our supplies, and sew any holes that may have occurred in the mist nets. 


The boat team practicing with the backpacks

Today may seem tedious, but it is extremely important that we stay organized and streamlined. This ensures that the project runs smoothly year after year and that the birds make it safely to their destination. 

Tomorrow we will get the birds to the boat, and make sure they are secured for their trip to Alamagan. This is also a very detailed and streamlined process. More updates to come! 

 

May 4, 2019

After two weeks of working out in the field, the team finally secured all of the birds for translocation to Alamagan. This means that we now need to work hard in the bird room to make sure the birds are well provisioned for their journey. They are being fed lots and lots of mealworms, flies, fruit, and pellets each day. 

As we get closer to the translocation, we are keeping a close eye on each bird to make sure that they are fit for travel. We want to make sure that each individual's journey is a success, and that they are able to thrive on the island of Alamagan. 


A Golden White-eyed Exam

We will soon be preparing the birds for their trip on the boat. This is a very streamlined and detailed process that I will fill you in on soon! 

 

May 2, 2019

Since our old field site did not fare Typhoon Yutu well, we decided to try setting our mist nets up at a different site. This new site is filled with native vegetation which evolved to withstand typhoons. Therefore, there is extensive canopy cover and the area is covered in lush forest. The area is also a protected wildlife area, so we set all mist nets up on already established trails in order to minimize disturbance to the area.


Setting up of a mist net

This new site is beautiful, and is a testament to the biodiversity of the island of Saipan. We have already found many Golden White-eyes and Rufous Fantails in this area. We will soon have all of the birds secured and ready to go to Alamagan. 

Stay tuned!

 

May 1, 2019

This year, I arrived on the island after the team had set up and begun securing birds for translocation. We had around 8 Golden White-eyes, and about 15 Rufous Fantails already when I got here!

Being part of the closing team means I am responsible for the care of birds awaiting transfer, helping to secure the remaining birds needed, and making sure the birds are fit and ready for the journey. This means that I am helping in the field, and in the bird room, a modified hotel room where the birds live until their journey. 

One of the things I love about this project is how streamlined and organized the process is. The birds receive health assessments upon arrival to the bird room, and are checked all day to assess their comfort and welfare. They are also weighed twice a day so we know they are thriving. Each bird is cared for individually and adjustments are made as necessary to ensure each bird makes it to Alamagan. 

I am out in the field tomorrow (at a new site!) so I will fill everyone in on the field operations then!

 

April 28, 2019

After I arrived on Saipan, I got right out into the field to get started working with the birds! The first thing I noticed was that the field site did not look the same as last year. Last year, the site was a lush forested area with a robust canopy. This year, there is hardly any canopy cover, and everything is dry and barren. This is all a result of Super Typhoon Yutu, which dealt a devastating blow to the island of Saipan in October 2018 and left most of the forest in shambles. 

Luckily, birds are extremely resilient, and many survived the storm. As I walk the forest, I can hear Golden White-eyes, Rufous Fantails, Bridled White-eyes, and Mariana Fruit Doves calling. This just reminds me how vitally important the MAC program is. By translocating these birds, we are not only protecting them from the brown tree snake, but other environmental threats, such as typhoons. 

More updates from the field are coming soon, so stay tuned!


A papaya tree destroyed by the typhoon. Almost none survived.

 

April 27, 2019

Hi everyone! I am Jen Haverty, a Senior Aviculturist here at the Aviary, and I am blessed to be representing the Aviary this year on the Mariana Avifauna Conservation trip taking place in Saipan, USA. This project is an important collaboration between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (which includes the Aviary!), Pacific Bird Conservation, and the Division of Fish and Wildlife on Saipan. 


Many of you are probably wondering, where in the world is Saipan? Well the answer is, very far away! It takes 4 planes and about 36 hours of travel to reach the island north of Guam. Even though I am exhausted after so much flying, I find that every second is worth it! The team is incredibly welcoming upon arriving to Saipan, and it is wonderful to work with colleagues from zoos around America. 

This is one of the most important conservation initiatives the Aviary takes part in each year, and one near and dear to my heart. As head of our Breeding Center, I am in charge of the care of many birds that come right from the island of Saipan! Their conservation is vitally important due to the threat of the invasive brown tree snake, which has decimated bird populations in Guam. 

In order to conserve bird populations in the Mariana Islands, the team will be moving Golden White-eyes and Rufous Fantails from the island of Saipan to the island of Alamagan this year. This will establish populations safe from the threat of the brown tree snake. 

I am so excited to be participating in this project once again and can't wait to share all of the details with you soon!

 

Read Jennifer's blog entries from her 2018 trip.