Bombed birds can’t be found

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1997:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor
for ecological services Brooks Harper on May 16
issued a new Biological Opinion for Gunnery and
Aerial Bombardment Practice at Farallon de
Medinilla, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana
Islands. As Friends of Animals special investigator
Carroll Cox described on page 17 of the March edition
of ANIMAL PEOPLE, Farallon de Medinilla is a
tiny island north of Guam, uninhabited by humans but
heavily used by protected sea birds and sea turtles
––between U.S. Navy bombing and strafing.
The new Biological Opinion, issued preliminary
to more bombing and strafing, notes that the most
endangered bird on the island, the Micronesian
megapode [ovenbird] is “likely to remain underneath
brushy cover, and therefore, deaths or injury from
either direct strikes or indirectly from shrapnel would
be difficult to detect from aerial surveys,” as if finding
anything left of a bird the size of a robin who’s been
hit by a bomb might be likely anyway.

“On-the-ground surveys are not possible due
to the high incidence of unexploded ordinance distributed
over the island,” Harper continued. “Due to these
factors, the USFWS is unable to determine the amount
of take from the training exercise covered under the
January 29, 1997 biological opinion,” which preceded
the last round of fire.
No turtle parts were found, either, but since
turtles break into bigger pieces, Harper was confident
that no turtles were killed.
Because, “The impact areas for gunnery and
aerial bombardment practice cover the entire area of
Farallon de Medinilla,” Harper continued, “the
USFWS anticipates the possible direct death of all
megapodes and destruction of all nests occuring on the
island at the time of naval training.”
To offset that damage, Harper recommended
“that the Navy continue to assist the Commonwealth of
the Northern Marianas Islands Division of Fish and
Wildlife in its efforts to eradicate feral ungulates on the
island of Sarignan, and that the Navy consider funding
additional conservation and recovery projects” for
Micronesian megapodes, such as “efforts to eradicate
feral ungulates on uninhabited northern islands,” and
“eradication of rats on Farallon de Medinilla and/or
other uninhabited northern islands.”
In other words, the Farallon de Medinilla
megapodes are probably goners, but the Navy should
take the good old boys who were supposed to protect
them on a couple of pig-and-goat shoots with the
natives, after which they can maybe go back to
Farallon de Medinilla and bomb some rats, to reduce
the threat to the megapodes that may already have been
blown to Kingdom Come.
“In addition to providing habitat for and/or
supporting populations of endangered and threatened
species,” Harper hopefully noted, “Farallon de
Medinilla also supports colonies of breeding seabirds,
including masked boobies, brown boobies, red-footed
boobies, great frigatebirds, common noddies, black
noddies, and white terns. Farallon de Medinilla is particularly
important for great frigatebirds, as it is one of
only two small breeding colonies known to exist in the
Mariana island chain, and for masked boobies because
it represents the largest known nesting site for this
species in the Mariana or Caroline islands.”

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.