Chamorro Standard Time: Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - 03:12 PM
 

loader

Loading…

 

KONTRA I KULEPBLA

Challenge the Snake

 

What is the Brown treesnake?

The Brown treesnake (Boiga irregularis, BTS), is an unwelcomed predator and pest. It was accidentally introduced to the island following WWII as a stowaway in military cargo ships. Indigenous to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, the Brown treesnake has become a common pest, causing major ecological and economic damage on the island. Snakes crawling on electrical lines frequently cause power outages and damage electrical lines. The Government of Guam and the US Federal Government have spent millions of dollars in research and control of Brown treesnake in order to protect Guam’s natural resources and prevent the spread to other locations.



Snake abundance or population numbers remains high in nearly all forested and urban habitats throughout Guam; up to 13,000 snakes per square mile occur in some forested areas of Guam.



Adults can reach lengths of 8 feet or more and weigh up to 5 pounds. The snake is an able climber and is found in trees and shrubs, where it forages at night to find lizards, birds, and mammals using its keen sense of smell and sensitive night vision. It frequently invades homes, commercial buildings, and other urban habitats in search of food and hiding spots.



The Brown treesnake is aggressive when threatened. The Brown treesnake is a mildly venomous species that will also constrict resisting prey. Brown treesnakes are not known to be fatal to humans, but special precautions should be taken to keep snakes away from infants and small children.



Snakes are frequently accidental stowaways in cargo and flights leaving Guam. If they become established, economic and ecological problems like those currently present on Guam would be likely to develop if the Brown treesnake were to reach other Pacific Islands.









Why the Brown treesnake is a threat to the ko’ko’

The snakes feed on a wide variety of animals including lizards, birds, and small mammals as well as bird and reptile eggs. Snakes frequently invade poultry houses, homes, and yards to consume domestic poultry, eggs, pet birds, and small mammals associated with residential areas. The Brown treesnake caused the extirpation or local extinction of many native bird species such as the Guam rail as it spread throughout the island. Today, it threatens the remaining two species of native forest birds, lizards and bats of Guam.

 

How Cocos Island can alleviate this threat

Cocos Island provides a cat and ungulate-free environment (no pig or deer) where brown Treesnake BTS; control can be facilitated through rodent eradication and the implementation of bio-security and early detection protocols. In this environment, endangered species, like the ko’ko’ can survive.





The establishment of wild populations of captive-bred species, such as the Guam rail, will help to avoid problems such as inbreeding and behavioral changes from lengthy confinement, a restricted life in captivity. In addition, the establishment of several wild sub-populations can buffer a species from localized stochastic or random events such as cat predation, fire, diseases and typhoons. Free-ranging rails on Cocos Island will create an opportunity to study rail behavior, survival, habitat preference and nesting success, as well as provide a public venue for outreach activities regarding conservation of Guam rails and invasive species control. In the future, birds may be collected for release elsewhere and the genetic diversity of the Cocos Island population could be analyzed.

 

The Ko’ko’

-The Ko’ko’ bird-What the public should know about the ko’ko’ bird-Regional efforts for the safety of endangered birds-Responsibility for the safety of Guam’s endangered birds-Cooperating Zoos-Successful Efforts-How the efforts to save endangered birds are similar to the Guam Rail Project



The Ko’ko’ bird



The Guam rail is a flightless species endemic or unique and only found on the island of Guam in the Mariana Islands. The species is derived from the closely related Gallirallus torquatus of the Philippines. No closely related species occur in Micronesia. It is a medium sized rail about 28 cm in total length. The body is elongated and laterally compressed, particularly in the neck and breast regions, allowing the birds to move rapidly through dense vegetation. The plumage or feather color and pattern of both sexes is similar, however males can often be distinguished by their larger size. The head and back are brown. It has a grey eye stripe and throat and a dark blackish breast with white barring. The legs and beak are dark brown. This species is a generalist, preferring animal over vegetable matter.

 

Before the arrival of humans more that 3000 years ago the Guam rail was probably a forest species. Historically it was common throughout the island in all habitat types except wetlands. Experimental Guam rail populations on Rota tend to survive in mixed farmland and edge habitats.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the population of rails on Guam was estimated between sixty and eighty thousand. Rails were often seen during early morning and late evening foraging and bathing along field edges and roadsides. Guam rails are very fecund or capable of producing many offsping. They mature at six months of age and have been known to produce up to 10 clutches per year in captivity. Rail eggs hatch after 19 days of incubation and captive rails will re-nest 14 days following a hatch or loss of nest. Released birds in Area 50 on Andersen Airforce Base demonstrated a similar pattern.







What the public should know about the ko’ko’ bird

The Guam rail is one of the most critically endangered rails in the world; it was federally listed as endangered in 1984. The last remaining wild rails were collected from the forest on Andersen Air Force Base in 1985. One captive population is located at the Guam Department of Agriculture in Mangilao, Guam and another spread throughout 17 participating zoos on the mainland U.S. The current captive population of rails in Mangilao varies anywhere from 100 – 130. The Mangilao population varies on a monthly basis dependant on chick survival, deaths in the facility, as well as releases and transfers to and from mainland facilities.







Regional efforts for the safety of endangered birds

Currently over 600 captive-bred Guam rails have been released on Rota in the CNMI, in an effort to establish an experimental wild population, where environmental conditions are similar to Guam’s and Brown Treesnakes are absent. Improvements in managing the captive flock have increased the number of rails available for each release and the larger release cohorts or groups have increased the likelihood of population establishment, that is surviving and persisting. Population estimates in 2002 indicated 100 rails present on the northeast end of Rota near two release sites, Duge and Saguagaga. However, more recent population estimates indicate persistent populations of less than 20 birds exist in the two areas.





Released birds suffer high mortality primarily due to feral cat predation, which slows population establishment and may be the primary cause of the population decline observed on Rota. Current release strategies include intensive cat trapping and testing of soft-release methodologies that may induce site fidelity or affinity for a certain location.

 

Responsibility for the safety of Guam’s endangered birds

The Guam Department of Agriculture is the agency responsible for protecting and preserving Guam’s natural resources for future generations. The Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources receives annual federal appropriations under the Wildlife Restoration Act and the Endangered Species Act, Section 6 funds to monitor and preserve Guam’s native species. The American Zoological Association (AZA) institutions also provide support for recovery of the ko’ko’ bird. Since 1984, Guam rails have been managed under a Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP program was developed in 1981 by the (American) Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered in the wild. The AZA manages a captive population of Guam rails separate from the population on Guam. The North American Guam rail population is distributed among 17 institutions. The North American population serves as a support population for the Guam population providing a genetic reservoir as well as a source of individuals for release.

 

Cooperating Zoos

The Guam Department of Agriculture’s Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources is located in Mangilao. The AZA institutions participating within the SSP include:



-San Antonio Zoo-Gainesville Zoo-National Aviary-Racine Zoo-Audubon Zoo-Wildlife Conservation Society-Disney’s Animal Kingdom-Sedgwick County Zoo-Oklahoma City Zoo-Tracy Aviary-Zoological Society of San Diego-Philadelphia Zoo-Louisville Zoo-Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo-Lincoln Park Zoo-Smithsonian National Zoological Park-Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden



Successful Efforts

Currently approximately 100 rails are hatched in captive breeding programs at Guam Department of Agriculture and zoos on the mainland. Both program have been successful in breeding birds for release.

 

How the efforts to save endangered birds are similar to the Guam Rail Project

Management and treatment for both populations are similar and complementary or supportive of each program. The SSP’s goal is to grow the population in order to supplement the reintroduction efforts on Rota and Guam.

 

Ko'ko' for Cocos

 

The Ko’ko’ for Cocos Project is an example of how Guam can preserve and restore habitats to support native species recovery. Habitat for native species can be created by planting native plant species, controlling invasive species (both plant and animal), and removing predatory species.

The Ko’ko’ for Cocos Project is also a good example of private and public partnerships. A Safe Harbor Agreement between the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Government of Guam and Cocos Island Resort Inc. was signed to allow management activities in support of ko’ko’ introductions on private land while protecting the future rights of the Cocos Island Resort. The project is funded through the Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs’ Brown Treesnake Grant; US Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species Non-traditional and Traditional Section 6 funds; US Fish & Wildlife Service Aquatic Nuisance Species Grant; US Fish & Wildlife Pacific Islands Coastal Program, US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program; US Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services; and, the US Forest Service Stewardship Program. In-kind services are provided by Cocos Island Resort.






Projects

 

How the Ko’ko’ for Cocos Project came to be

The Ko’ko’ for Cocos Project was initiated to provide safe nesting areas for ko’ko’, as well as a place for the public to see ko’ko’ in the wild. Native forest was protected through invasive plant control and enhanced through native tree planting. Rodents were eradicated and protocols to maintain a rodent and snake-free environment were implemented. Monitor lizard populations were reduced to minimize their impacts to the newly released ko’ko’.

 

In 2005 a brown Treesnake was found on Cocos Island. A subsequent snake survey found no snakes but removed almost 600 rats. Research shows that when you reduce rodent populations prior to snake control, snake capture rates double. Thus, the large number of rodents captured on Cocos may have prevented snake traps from capturing snakes on Cocos. In order to protect the native species on Cocos Island from snakes, planning efforts for the Ko’ko’ for Cocos Project began.






The Primary Focus

The primary focus of the project is to protect the natural resources of Cocos Island and establish six breeding pairs of ko’ko’ birds. Cocos Island will provide a model environment to develop strategies for future reintroductions of Guam rails and other native bird habitat restoration efforts on Guam, other Pacific islands and offshore islets.

 

In addition, the implementation of the project will develop regional expertise in rodent eradication, detection and control of low-density snake populations, bio-security measures necessary to maintain quarantine, and methods to exclude non-target species from toxic bait stations.






Why the Ko’ko’ for Cocos Project is needed

The people of Guam need an accessible place where they can experience native species in native habitat. Past reintroductions of the ko’ko’ have taken place in areas where public viewing is prohibited or not available. There is an entire generation on Guam that have not seen the native species, as most are now threatened, endangered or extinct.



http://www.guamdawr.org/wildlife/railrelease/document_view

The establishment of wild populations of captive-bred species, such as the Guam rail, will help to avoid problems such as inbreeding and behavioral changes from lengthy confinement. In addition, the establishment of several wild sub-populations can buffer a species from localized stochastic events such as cat predation, fire, diseases and typhoons. Free-ranging rails on Cocos Island will create an opportunity to study rail behavior, survival, habitat preference and nesting success, as well as provide a public venue for outreach activities regarding conservation of Guam rails and invasive species control. In the future, birds may be collected for release elsewhere and the genetic diversity of the Cocos Island population could be analyzed.

 

The Steps to ensure success of complete the Ko’ko’ for Cocos Project

1. Prevent the transport of unwanted pests to Cocos Island.2. Eradicate rats and mice on Cocos Island.3. Reduce impacts of monitor lizards on newly released ko’ko’.4. Detect Brown Treesnakes (if present).5. Establish Guam rails on Cocos Island.6. Improve native forest on Cocos Island.7. Establish a fun promotional campaign that focuses on the Cocos Island ko’ko’ as a public treasure to be protected.

Cocos Island
The History of Cocos Island




Cocos Island is a 33.6-ha (83.1 acre) atoll-like island located 2.5 km southwest of Guam. The southwestern third of the island (21.7 acres) is a park administered by Guam Department of Parks and Recreation and has a public dock area. The other two-thirds of the island (61.4 acres) is privately owned and contains Cocos Island Resort (CIR). CIR is a day resort that shuttles tourists and cargo via boat from Merizo, Guam.

 

Cocos Island supports several native species that have been extirpated or locally extinct from Guam. Seasonally, there may be thousands of seabirds nesting on the island. Cocos Island houses much of Guam’s remaining population of Micronesian starlings (Aplonis opaca) or såli (potentially 50 or more pairs). In the mid 1990s Cocos Island supported more lizard species (12) than any other island in the Marianas. Nesting green sea turtles frequent Cocos Island. The existence of Guam’s extirpated species is due to the lack of brown Treesnakes, feral deer, pigs, and cats.

 

The natural vegetative areas on Cocos Island show distinct zones typical of coral atolls. There is a beach ridge strand, a forest edge, a mixed forest area, a Casuarina forest, a lower brushy fringe, and beach scrub. The resort area contains cultivated species and the site of the abandoned Long Range Navigation tracking station (LORAN) contains secondary forest growth and introduced grasses and vines. Overall, Cocos Island provides second growth forest and beach strand habitat for extant Micronesian starlings, seabirds, lizards and nesting sea turtles.

 

The benefits of having Cocos Island as the new habitat for the ko’ko’ bird

-Birds will exhibit wild behavior traits-Accessible for people to see-Other species will benefit from habitat enhancement associated with ko’ko’ reintroduction-Other species found on Cocos Island, such as the nesting seabirds and Såli, will benefit from increased biosecurity measures associated with ko’ko’ reintroduction.-Island can be used as a living laboratory-Ko’ko’ birds can be collected for release elsewhere.

The measures that will be taken to ensure the safety of the ko’ko’ bird on the island

Guam rails were released on Cocos Island after rodent eradication, reduction of monitor lizards, and the second lizard survey was completed. Release activities will occur during wet season when there are plenty of resources. Supplementary food dishes will be provided to the newly released rails until there is no longer evidence of use by the ko’ko’. Released birds will be radio-tracked twice daily and their progress monitored. Any signs of stress will be noted and individuals may be brought back into captivity upon capture. Any deaths will be reported immediately and determined causes will be removed.

 

Guam rails for release will be selected by the Guam Stud Book Keeper to benefit the Guam captive population, while maximizing genetic diversity for the Cocos population. Each rail is weighed and fitted with a Holohil (9.5 gram) transmitter seven to ten days prior to release. Birds must weigh at least 220 grams to be eligible for release with a transmitter. A Teflon tape harness is used to attach the transmitter to the back of the bird. The harness is fitted, sewn into place, and attachment points on the harness are crazy-glued to support the stitching. The birds are observed for seven to ten days for changes in eating habits or other behaviors related to the fitting of the transmitter. Rails are weighed a week after fitting the transmitter to monitor for weight loss and again just prior to release. If any bird exhibits a change in behavior or loses seven to ten grams they are removed from the release cohort. The transmitters are monitored as well during this initial period to ensure proper functioning. Rails with transmitters will be transported to Cocos Island in carrying cases designed to hold five birds, each in a separate container.

 

Guam rails were released immediately upon arrival on Cocos. Release site may vary from initial site depending on the activity of the first release birds. Twenty supplemental feeding and watering stations will be maintained in the release area. Visitation to stations by rails will be monitored using sand tracking stations; use will determine the length of time stations are maintained. All rails will be located five days per week using radio telemetry for the first month after release. After the first month rails will be located three times each week until transmitter failure.

 

Supplemental releases of at least ten rails will occur biannually or until rails occur throughout Cocos. Population monitoring will determine the number of rails needed for release in order to maintain a breeding population. Tracking data will determine survivorship, dispersal patterns, nest success and habitat preference. Future release protocols may be altered based on information gathered.

 

If injured or dead rails are found they will be brought immediately to the Guam Rail Recovery Program veterinarian for care or necropsy to determine cause of death. Any tissue samples collected will be submitted to the Guam Rail Species Survival Plan pathologist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

 

Partners



Local conservation is not possible without the support and encouragement of the local community and businesses.

-Cocos Island Resort
-DOI Office of Insular Affairs
-Guam Department of Agriculture
-Guam Department of Parks & Recreation
-Guam Environmental Protection Agency
-Guam Visitor’s Bureau-Guam Telephone Authority
-Rare-TogetherGreen
-US Fish & Wildlife Service
-USDA Forest Service
-USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
-USDA Wildlife Services
-Visitors to Cocos

Cocos Island Resort

Cocos Island Resort (CIR) is a signatory on the Safe Harbor Agreement. CIR is working with DAWR to establish bio-security protocols as part of their daily operations as well as managing waste to minimize food for rodents. CIR will assist with staff training; staff will need to be informed of the project including the necessary protocols to follow. CIR works with the partners to facilitate management activities, such as the rodent eradication, monitor lizard control, reforestation, biological monitoring and other activities as agreed upon. CIR provides in-kind support in the form of logistics and facilities.

 

DOI Office of Insular Affairs

The United States Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, has funded Guam BTS research and control since 1990. DAWR BTS research and control projects have included the creation, testing, and installation of barriers for use on nesting trees of native forest birds and the use of wide-area trapping and barriers to create snake-reduced environments to facilitate reintroduction of endangered native species into the wild. The monitoring of snake traps on Cocos Island and in the surrounding areas of Merizo as well as an intensive pre and post rodent eradication survey is funded by DOI. Funding from DOI also allowed DAWR to conduct outreach and education efforts aimed to provide information to the public regarding BTS control in support of endangered species recovery on Guam.

 

Guam Department of Agriculture

The Guam Department of Agriculture’s Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR) is the coordinating agency for the Ko’ko’ for Cocos Project. DAWR is a signatory on the Safe Harbor Agreement along with Guam Department of Parks and Recreation, US Fish and Wildlife Service and Cocos Island Resort. DAWR oversees the biological aspect of the project, including bird, lizard and snake surveys, rodent eradication, monitor lizard control, release and monitoring of Guam rails, as well as ensuring the long-term implementation of biosecurity protocols. The Department of Agriculture’s Forest and Soil Resources Division (FSRD) is completing the forest enhancement objectives.

 

Guam Department of Parks & Recreation

The Guam Department of Parks and Recreation is a signatory on the Safe Harbor Agreement and provide information regarding biosecurity protocols and wildlife restoration to those permitted to use Cocos Island public dock and picnic facilities. They will also aid in the installation of biosecurity signs on Cocos Island.

 

Guam Environmental Protection Agency

The Guam Visitor’s Bureau (GVB) partners with the ko’ko’ for Cocos Project by providing technical assistance with marketing and supports the public awareness of the ko’ko’ bird through their many events. GVB also assisted in procuring the ko’ko’ for Cocos hotline from Guam Telephone Authority.

 

Guam Visitor’s Bureau

The Guam Visitor’s Bureau (GVB) partners with the ko’ko’ for Cocos Project by providing technical assistance with marketing and supports the public awareness of the ko’ko’ bird through their many events. GVB also assisted in procuring the ko’ko’ for Cocos hotline from Guam Telephone Authority.

 

Guam Telephone Authority

Guam Telephone Authority donated a hotline (488-RAIL) to enable the public to report any sightings of rats, cats or snakes on Cocos Island. Early detection through hotline reports facilitating rapid response to breaches in biosecurity.



Rare

Rare Pride provided guidance, training and financial support for the “Go Native” social marketing campaign designed to garner public support for the biosecurity protocols included in the ko’ko’ for Cocos Biosecurity Plan. The Go Native campaign is part of a two-tier social marketing campaign that was initiated in May 2008. The broad over-arching campaign is a “Go Native” Rare Pride Campaign that focuses on instilling local pride in Guam’s native natural resources and creating a society that will protect and promote native species through behavior change. The second campaign, known as “ko’ko’ for Cocos”, falls within the Go Native campaign and serves as a more direct initiative that promotes Cocos Island as a snake-free haven for Guam rails and the biosecurity protocols necessary to keep the island free of unwanted pest species. Both campaigns work on the premise that native species are good and invasive species are bad for Guam.

 

TogetherGreen

Toyota/Audubon TogetherGreen has contributed funding to sustain biosecurity efforts and outreach projects on Cocos Island.

 

US Fish & Wildlife Service

US Fish &Wildlife Service has provided technical assistance with the development of the Safe Harbor Agreement, issued an incidental take permit, and completed the National Environmental Policy Act requirements.

 

USDA Forest Service

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service provides technical expertise for the forest enhancement on Cocos Island, as well as funding through the Forest Stewardship Program.

 

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical expertise for the forest enhancement on Cocos Island and funding through the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP).

 

US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services

USDA Wildlife Services (WS) provided funding in support of the initial development of rodent eradication techniques as well as the application of the rodenticides on Cocos Island. USDA WS developed the bio-security plan and conducted the initial implementation of the plan. USDA WS also initiated monitor lizard reduction on Cocos Island.

 

Visitors to Cocos!

Both local and international visitors to Cocos Island are asked to report predators if spotted on the island.

"Kik it with Us" Blog



For more information click here.