DMWR project aims to conserve native duck
The Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) is working hard to acquire baseline data so they can move forward with the conservation and management of the Pacific Black Duck, which is American Samoa’s only native duck.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries through an email correspondence to DMWR Director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, DMWR wildlife biologist Mark MacDonald explained that the Pacific Black Duck Recovery Project, spearheaded by DMWR, is to determine the population status of this species in American Samoa, identify critical areas of habitat, and obtain information on factors limiting population.
According to MacDonald, two dozen ducks were observed on Aunu'u last fall, the highest number recorded in recent years; “And that likely constitutes the majority of the population.”
MacDonald said it is unclear whether all these birds are year-round residents, or travel between other South Pacific islands; but ducklings have been observed on Aunu'u, “which tells us at least some Pacific Black Ducks breed here.”
With regards to population, the DMWR wildlife biologist said, “Our monitoring program will give us details on population dynamics and movements, so we are better able to answer this question.”
MacDonald reports that the largest concentrations of ducks have been observed in the two lakes on Aunu'u where they dabble for algae, aquatic vegetation, and aquatic invertebrates.
“They are also seen in groups of 3 - 4 in the seasonal wetland areas around Tutuila, such as Malaeloa and Leone, when consistent rains have filled these small ponds and waterways,” he said.
When asked if the Pacific Black Duck is endangered, MacDonald replied that they are not currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to their extensive distribution throughout the South Pacific. “They are, however, declining in many parts of their range and it is important to conserve wildlife at the local level to prevent species from ever requiring listing.”
He said here in American Samoa, Pacific Black Ducks are very rare and at severe risk of total extermination without increased research and management.
So do these birds pose a threat to the island as far as humans, animals, and plants are concerned? MacDonald explained that the Pacific Black Duck is a native bird which has most likely inhabited the territory far longer than people, and co-existed with other flora and fauna for thousands of years.
“They pose no threat to human health,” he assured.
When asked if there are any benefits of having these birds around, MacDonald replied, “Ducks are known dispersers of plant seeds and provide other unique functions to the eco-systems they inhabit. Healthy and resilient ecosystems are those diverse in species richness, making the conservation of each ecosystem component important to the overall well-being of that environment.”
“Currently, American Samoa is the only U.S. state or territory where the Pacific Black Duck can be observed in the wild, making this tiny population quite special. Many also believe that species have an inherent right to exist without providing any sort of benefit to people,” MacDonald noted.
More information on the Pacific Black Duck Recovery Program can be obtained by contacting Mark MacDonald or DMWR Tech. Ace Mauga at 633-4456.