Saving a Native Guam Bird Species through Conservation and Education
Island life might sound pretty good if you’re a mainlander, but unfortunately, for native wildlife and plant species, surviving on islands isn’t always a stroll on the beach. In her job with the Guam Department of Agriculture, Cheryl Calaustro tries to make sure that species native to the Pacific Island of Guam, like the ko’ko’ (or Guam Rail), survive to see another century.
The problem is simple. When a species has spent thousands of years adapting to the specific conditions of its particular island, it can be easily wiped out by new species brought in by humans. Domestic cats and invasive snakes can wipe out bird populations; native plants can be wiped out by aggressive plant species brought – on purpose or by mistake – to the island by humans.
Populations of the ko’ko’ and many other bird species on Guam have been decimated by the invasive brown tree snake, as well as feral cats, deer, and pigs. And many of Guam’s young people don’t know what they’re missing. As Cheryl says, “A whole generation has grown up not knowing that Guam’s forests should be a cacophony of bird song. Our forests are silent.”
With her Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship, Cheryl encouraged young people and adults alike to help create habitat suitable for the release of endangered species native to Guam. She managed a campaign to encourage a sense of pride in Guam’s native natural resources. With Toyota TogetherGreen support, she was able to expand the campaign and work to reintroduce the ko’ko’, currently surviving in captivity, to the offshore island of Cocos Island.
One day soon, with Cheryl’s help, Guam’s forests will sing again!