A scientist has killed a rare kingfisher from Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, sparking a controversy among researchers and conservationists.
The practice of removing animals from their wild habitat for research purposes is generally frowned upon, but that didn’t stop Christopher Filardi of the American Museum of Natural History. According to a report from the Washington Post, Filardi discovered a rare moustached kingfisher, a species that hasn’t been spotted in more than 20 years, and killed it.
Filardi, who has been researching birds for the entirety of his career, wrote poetically about the preciousness of endangered and specialized species that rarely show their faces to human observers. “They are ghosts, until they reveal themselves in a thrilling moment of clarity and then they are gone again. Maybe for another day, maybe a year, maybe a century.”
As Filardi scoured the remote mountains of the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, he spotted the rare bird. A female was first discovered in the 1920s, and not a single one was seen again until local hunters captured two more females and turned them over to researchers in the 50s.
Researchers know relatively little about the birds’ habits and calls, and no male specimen has ever been seen. There wasn’t much hope of seeing another one, until Filardi spotted the rare bird.
He set up nets across the forest canopy, and captured a male with a blue back and an orange face. Filardi exclaimed his wonder at the discovery, and promptly proceed to kill, or “collect” the bird.
The story has caused outrage among readers who likened the collection to trophy hunting, but scientists agreed that killing the bird and attempting to frame it as anything but that was unnecessary. Professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Mark Bekoff, wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post decrying the killing of wild animals in the name of conservation research.
The Audubon Society wrote that the killing of the bird was concluded to not place the population as a whole under threat. Filardi maintains that killing the bird would help scientists learn crucial facts about its anatomy, which may lead to a greater understanding of potential conservation strategies.