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Monitoring wildlife mortality vital

A Wildlife Health Presentation was conducted yesterday morning by Thierry M. Work of the US Geological Survey (USGC) National Wildlife Health Center-Honolulu Field Station, at the local Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) conference room. The USGC is collaborating with DMWR to understand the causes of death (mortality) of wildlife in American Samoa.

“I am here basically for information exchange,” he explained,  “…to share the information that we found from our laboratory examination of animals sent to us from here in American Samoa, since 2005.”

He noted that “since 2005, we have examined 105 animals from American Samoa consisting of birds, bats and turtles, with the main cause of death being starvation and trauma, and about 25% from infectious disease, like bacteria and parasites.

“We have little pieces of information from many different animals and over time, as we examine more of the same species, we have a better idea of what is affecting that particular species,”

Work said that if the public comes upon any ‘freshly’ dead animals, such as birds, bats or turtles, to please contact DMWR as soon as soon as possible and they will come pick it up.

“It is best that you do not pick up the dead animal, but if you do, please put a plastic bag over your hand to avoid contact. You always want to be safe.” said Work.

DMWR Wildlife Biologist Pulemagafa Siaifoi Fa’aumu asks for the public to work with them, by contacting them if injured or dead wild animals are found.

“We need to work with the public all of the time. We need to know the causes of death of wild animals, so that if there is something potentially dangerous that can spread to other animals, we will know how to deal with it. We need to continue the work we started in 2005, to find out where we stand,” he said.

Speaking about the dead mynah bird case that was reported this past February and sent to the USGC by the DMWR, Work said, “The best evidence that we have, is that they flew into something and died from impact trauma”.

“But, we don’t know. They might have been flushed and scared off and hit something. All we can tell you is that they died from trauma. The big mystery is, why that happened,” he said.

According to information given out by Work, to date, the USGS has examined 105 specimens from American Samoa since 2005, including 55 birds, 30 mammals (mainly bats) and 20 sea turtles.

The major cause of death for all groups is trauma and starvation, but disease from various parasites and bacteria account for about one quarter of all deaths.

DMWR explains to the public that monitoring wildlife diseases is important for conservation of endangered species and for public health... as some wildlife diseases are transmissible to humans.

So it is important to be vigilant and report dead and dying wildlife to the DMWR so that they can develop a better understanding of the health of wildlife resources in the region.

Contact info for the American Samoa DMWR is 633-4456.