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Collecting the Solomons Nightjar (1 Viewer)

sicklebill

Well-known member
Want to see a Solomons Nightjar? Sadly there are now two less to choose from, as a breeding female and the chick were collected on Tetepare Island earlier this year by scientists from the University of Kansas- read on:

I am just back from a Solomons trip which included Tetepare Island, where we were very keen to see the rare and little known Solomons Nightjar, (Eurostopodus nigripennis) formerly known from a number of the larger islands but with recent sightings only from 3 sites based around the Tetepare area of Western Province. It seems to nest now mainly on small islets amongst tideline vegetation, but is very prone to disturbance and with a number of clutches being lost in recent years. It was formerly classified as part of White-throated Nightjar (E. mystacalis), but when further work was done this and the presumed extinct New Caledonian Nightjar (E, exul) were split off

We had been told of a pair with a nest on Tetepare, seen just two days before. The site is a beautiful wild and almost uninhabited island run as a nature reserve by the local people and a conservation trust. We got a small boat and two of the excellent local guides Twomey and Isaac to take us over, and watched from the boat offshore to see if we could see the bird, to no avail. Our guide went ashore and found the clutch had gone, with no sign of the bird- besides disturbance from birders/photographers/videographers it seems monitor lizards are a big problem with egg predation.

The guides knew of a tiny islet nearby where there might be a pair, so we motored across, and again whilst watching from the boat this time we glimpsed a nightjar flush up. The guides went ashore to check for a nest, with no sign, and we duly landed and eventually got the bird fly right overhead and disappear in the mangroves across the channel. Happily it later reappeared and even better sat out in the open on a branch so we could could get unobstructed photos and a video- see the IBC site. Great stuff.

However the issue became clouded when we heard that an expedition from the University of Kansas had collected a juvenile and a female, against the wishes of the locals. It is invidious to put polite and helpful local people into a situation where they feel they have to agree to something they are not happy about, as appears to be the case here. The island is run as a a nature reserve, and we were appalled to hear of scientists from yet another American institution coming over with a neocolonialist attitude and a 19th century mindset where collecting is deemed essential.

Putting it bluntly, why is a nature reserve deemed a suitable site for collecting? Why collect what is evidently now a rare and little known species? I fail to see why blood and feather samples, measurements and photos are still deemed insufficient data. The Sols has a shamefully long history of American Museums and Universities coming in and collecting rare birds, then getting a big mainly negative reaction from other people with an interest in birds and more significantly, the local custodians of the land. In this case various very upset people are making representations to the relevant government ministry to ban such expeditions from coming in future, it seems that oversight may be looser here and permits easier to obtain than elsewhere.

We also heard that this same University group collected a specimen of the rare Monkey-faced Bat, and heaven knows what else, no doubt including the local island endemic Tetepare (Dark-eyed) White-eye which has a very distinct and likely splittable relative on nearby Rendova.

The fallout from the collecting of the Guadalcanal Moustached Kingfisher was extensive, but sadly the split between those who invoke the divine right of science to collect rare species, and the rest of us who have strong ethical objections to the taking of life remains relevant.

I am advised that Tyrone Lavery is the postdoc (Field Museum and University of Kansas) who collected on the Solomon Islands a little while ago. His postdoc advisor at University of Kansas is Rob Moyle, who is an ornithologist. Tyrone's blog hasn't been updated since before he started his postdoc. It would be good to hear their perspective on this controversy.
 
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Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Despicable, is there a way to let them know of the wider disdain for their activities?

I seriously doubt they care though.
 

sicklebill

Well-known member
I think they will care if enough fuss is made; I know various ministries in the Sols are being contacted by the conservation body that runs Tetepare and being asked to tighten up on this kind of thing which seems pretty regular there. I think institutions are quite sensitive about accusations of neocolonialism and non-ethical behaviour, so I am hoping this issue has some way to run as yet. I will advise in due course after I get back from Madagascar.
 
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John Cantelo

Well-known member
Well said, Phil. Those behaving in such a high-handed and doubtfully ethical manner need to be called out for their actions. It's hard to see how collecting such a rare bird can be defended. They must certainly know that doing so is now regarded as extremely controversial and risks bringing them, and the institutions with which they are connected, into disrepute.
 

sicklebill

Well-known member
One clarification to be made- my advice was incorrect and Dr. Tyrone Lavery was not associated with this University of Kansas expedition, he now works with the Threatened Species Network, my apologies for mentioning him.
I am awaiting news from the Tetepare Conservation folks for their views and we can go from there once we know who was involved.
 

birdboybowley

Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
Supporter
England
Disgusting indeed....why do American unis still need to collect?? Effing pointless
 

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