For Immediate Release, September 21, 2016
Contact: Loyal Mehrhoff, (808) 351-3200, firstname.lastname@example.org
Five Samoan Animals Gain Endangered Species Act Protection
HONOLULU— In accordance with a landmark agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected five animals in the U.S. territory of American Samoa under the Endangered Species Act: two birds, two tropical snails and the only insect-eating bat in Polynesia.
“I worked on early efforts to get three of these species protected — more than 20 years ago — so I’m very glad these unique animals from American Samoa are getting the protection they need to survive and recover,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, endangered species recovery director at the Center. “Like too many species from the Pacific Islands, these animals are threatened by habitat destruction and invasive species. But with protection under the Endangered Species Act, which has been more than 90 percent effective at saving species from extinction, they have a real shot at survival."
The two birds proposed for protection include the friendly ground dove and the mao. The mao is a large, vocal, nectar-eating bird that lives in mature, high-elevation forests — habitat that has almost entirely disappeared on the Samoan archipelago due to logging and from cyclone damage to the habitat remnants. The high-quality, protected habitat in the National Park of American Samoa may play an important role in recovery of the mao if this spectacular bird can be reintroduced from dwindling populations in other parts of the territory. The friendly ground dove also faces destruction of its tropical forest habitat and, like many ground-nesting birds, egg predation by non-native rats.
The Pacific sheath-tailed bat once numbered as many as 11,000 in American Samoa, but a 2008 survey found none. The two snails proposed for protection are both threatened by the non-native, predatory rosy wolf snail, introduced to Tutuila Island in 1977. Snails like these are typically very slow growing, live about five years and produce only a few young per year (fewer than 20) — a very low reproductive rate — which makes them particularly vulnerable to introduced predators.
Several of the species have been waiting decades for protection; the Center petitioned for protection of four of the five in 2004. Today's decision is part of a historic settlement agreement between the Center and the Service that expedites decisions on 757 species around the country and has so far resulted in endangered species protections for 152 species and proposed protection for another 40.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.