Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population of the Guam Kingfisher, or Sihek, on Palmyra Atoll, USA
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS), are releasing (meaning introducing) the Guam kingfisher (Todiramphus cinnamominus), known locally as the sihek, on Palmyra Atoll as an experimental population under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Currently, sihek exists only in captivity and has been extinct in the wild for more than 30 years. The introduction on Palmyra Atoll is outside sihek's historical range because its primary habitat within its native range on Guam has been indefinitely altered by the accidental introduction of the predatory brown treesnake (Boiga irregularis) in the mid-twentieth century. Tools to manage brown treesnakes at a landscape level are beginning to be deployed, but it will take time before these tools are effective enough for the reintroduction of sihek on Guam. We anticipate significant declines in sihek population that threaten the species' viability before reintroduction to Guam could occur. The introduction of sihek to Palmyra Atoll is not intended to be a permanent introduction that would support a self-sustaining population; rather, it is intended to facilitate the gathering of information and analysis to optimize efforts for reestablishment of the species on Guam once brown treesnakes can be sufficiently controlled at a landscape scale. The introduction of sihek to Palmyra Atoll is also likely to help increase the global population of this extinct-in-the-wild species in advance of a reintroduction effort on Guam. We classify this population as a nonessential experimental population (NEP) under the Act and provide regulations for the take of sihek within the NEP area. The best available data indicate the introduction of sihek to Palmyra Atoll is biologically feasible and will promote the conservation of the species.