For Immediate Release, December 11, 2013

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Tinian Monarch

 Rare Island Bird Threatened by U.S. Military Activities in Pacific

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the Tinian monarch. The unique bird lives only in forested areas on Tinian, a 39-square-mile island in the western Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines and south of Japan. Tinian is a U.S. territory that is part of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. The bird is threatened by increasing development and military activity on Tinian resulting from the relocation of training activities from Okinawa.

Tinian monarch
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Devon Pike. This photo is available for media use.

“Endangered Species Act protection helped save this dainty flycatcher once already, but now the bird needs a helping hand again to keep human activities from driving it to extinction,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center.

The flycatcher nearly went extinct due to forest clearing for agriculture and military staging during World War II. It was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1970, and following an increase in forest cover and population size, was delisted in 2004. Since then the bird’s forest habitat has been chipped away by numerous projects. Only 549 acres of native forest remain on Tinian.

The monarch’s population is estimated to have declined by nearly 40 percent in recent years. It is threatened not only by an increase in military activities but by development, agriculture, typhoons, disease, predation from rodents and the threat of invasion by exotic brown treesnakes. The brown treesnake has decimated native wildlife on numerous islands, and increased military transport heightens the risk of accidentally carrying the voracious predator to Tinian.

The monarch is a 7.5-inch, tan-faced bird with a gray head, chocolate-brown back and dark wings with white bars. It feeds by catching insects, and nests year-round in trees, with reduced nesting during periods of low rainfall. The monarch’s call sounds like a squeaky dog toy.

The bird is endemic to Tinian, meaning it occurs nowhere else in the world. Its very restricted range places it at high risk of extinction. Since the 1600s, 97 out of 108 known bird extinctions have been on islands.

“Most environmental problems are complicated, but this one is simple — to save the Tinian monarch, we need to spare its forest home. Endangered Species Act protection will make sure this special bird is around for generations to come,” said Curry.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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