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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 17) - Seventy-five of
Guam's endangered ko'ko' birds have doctor's appointments this week with
veterinary experts visiting island from Disney World's Animal Kingdom in
Orlando, Fla.

The Guam rails -- ko'ko' in Chamorro -- are receiving a full
checkup on their feathered little bodies, including a physical examination and
blood tests, before being released next week on Rota as part of the Guam
Department of Agriculture's successful rail release program.

This is the second time the three Disney veterinary experts have
been on island to visit the rails as part of an endangered species recovery
project involving zoos around the nation. The project brings a team of experts
from a variety of zoos together to work on a species' survival plan.

Disney Animal Projects veterinarian Deirdre Fontenot said she
and her colleagues will give the birds exams and also take blood samples to test
for avian diseases, compare red blood cell counts and check protein levels.

"We don't expect to find anything -- it's just a health
assessment," Fontenot said. "So far they all look great and very
healthy. The lab tests will be back next week and we'll know more then, but we
expect them to be normal."

Fontenot said she was first introduced to Guam rails when she
worked at a previous zoo and that she soon developed an interest in the birds.
When she heard the American Zoo and Aquarium Association was looking for
veterinary experts to work on the rail's species survival plan, she got Disney
Animal Project's support and volunteered.

She admitted to having a fondness for the small flightless birds
endemic to Guam, which were once teetering on the brink of extinction.

"They do have great personalities. They're very animated
and very vocal, and I think the success of the rail reintroduction program is
the whole storyline of the plight of zoos to try and save an endangered species
and reintroduce it to the wild," she said.

This weekend they will fly to Rota to witness the release of 50
of the 75 tested birds on that island, which has no brown tree snakes and fewer
predators of other types.

The agriculture department's rail recovery project coordinator,
Susanne Medina, said there are at least 250 rails living on Rota, but that
number could be as high as 500.

Earlier this year, the agriculture department attempted its
first rail release on Guam, but only one of the 44 rails released survived, as
many of the rest were probably eaten by feral cats, according to Pacific Daily
News files.

Fontenot said she believes birds will be able to survive in the
wild on Guam someday.

"Predator control is the key to getting the birds back on
Guam," she said. "The brown tree snake control that they've been able
to do gives me hope that they may be able to control other predators as

September 17, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 


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