Saving the Micronesian kingfishers

December 28, 2007 3:29:35 PM PST
The Philadelphia Zoo is going on an expedition to Guam.

It's a trip designed to teach kids about preservation, and to begin work on re-introducing a very special bird.

The birds are Micronesian Kingfishers. You can see them facing off at the Animal Kingdom at Disney World. In fact, the only place you will find them is in a cage. There are only about 70 of these brilliant birds left in the world.

"It's now extinct in the wild. One of the zoo's major conservation initiatives is trying to help save that species," said Kristen Lewis-Waldron.

The director of education at the Philadelphia Zoo will be in Guam starting on New Year's Day. She will spend the entire month of January in the U-S-controlled territory in the Pacific to educate youngsters about native species like the Kingfisher in the hopes that one day they won't be so endangered.

"The opportunity to reach out to students there and teach them about their wildlife is really exciting to me," she explained.

At one time, the Micronesian Kingfisher could be seen eating crustaceans and small frogs on Guam.

Then, in the 1980's, the introduction of the brown tree snake decimated the entire bird population on the island.

Conservationists hope to one day reintroduce the Kingfisher to Guam, if protective areas can be established.

Lewis-Waldron will meet every fourth grader in all 25 schools of Guam to teach them the importance of keeping birds, bats and other threatened species alive.

"A bat costume is one of the items in the tool kit, so it's a highly engaging experience for the students. It will be a lot of fun," she said.

You can look forward to seeing these birds in person when the zoo opens the McNeil Avian Center in March 2009.

Lewis-Waldron will also be blogging during her trip to Guam. You will be able to read her blog on the zoo's website at