The Scientist That Shot a Bird No One Had Seen for Half a Century

When Chris Filardi caught the incredibly rare Guadalcanal Mustached Kingfisher, he did what any good biologist would: he collected (killed) it for science. Filardi, a biologist and researcher for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), spotted the bird he’d dreamed of capturing for 20 years while on an expedition through the Solomon Islands’ deep jungles.

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According to audobon.org, Filardi killed the bird to “preserve [it] as part of the scientific record,” as scientists have done for hundreds of years. Cnet.com quotes Filardi, who insists the kingfisher is not an endangered species: “Though sightings and information about the bird are rare in the ornithological community, the bird itself is not,” says Filardi. He continues, defending that his expedition was by no means a “trophy hunt” and that killing a single male would not hurt the species as a whole.

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On the other hand, PETA and others in the scientific community, have a very different outlook on Filardi’s actions. Discovery.com says there are only 250 to 1000 mature birds left in the world, making the Guadalcanal Moustached Kingfisher an endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s listings. Nydailynews.com contacted PETA Senior Director Colleen O’Brien, who says, “To search for and find an animal of a rare species — an individual with feelings, interests, a home, and perhaps a mate—only to kill him is perverse, cruel, and the sort of act that has led to the extinction of other animals who were also viewed as ‘specimens.'”

Scientists like Filardi have been battling ever-shrinking native species-populations for years. Human activities like water pollution, clear-cutting and invasive species introduction cause population decreases all over the world. Research like Filardi’s provides important information about rare species like the Guadalcanal Moustached Kingfisher. Even so, killing the bird decreased an already dwindling population and brings of some serious ethical questions about the place of harvesting specimens today.

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Filardi claimed, “This was neither an easy decision nor one made in the spur of the moment,” according to nydailynews.com. Filardi thought his decision through, but did he make the right one? This twitter user, quoted on nydailynews.com, sums up my view on the issue perfectly: “@AMNH you disgust me. Do we live in Victorian times? What would happen if this kingfisher was the last of its kind?” The bird was not, in fact, the last of its kind. All the same, Filardi’s actions are questionable. I agree with PETA: killing an animal for science is old-fashioned and cruel. On top of that, rare species like the Guadalcanal Mustached Kingfisher need all the protection they can get, which would not include killing them, no matter how noble the cause. What do you think?

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