The Wildlife section of the Division of Fish and Wildlife works to conserve and manage the terrestrial wildlife resources of our islands through a variety of locally and federally funded projects. Much of the federal funding comes from the Wildlife Restoration Program of US Fish and Wildlife.

Division wildlife biologists conduct research and provide data and reports on wildlife species that informs both scientists and policymakers on the status of species and the effectiveness of conservation and management efforts. They also look for new and emerging technologies that can be applied to wildlife conservation.

Key projects are outlined below.

Tropical Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program

Tropical Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (TMAPS) Program is an ongoing program established in 2008 by the Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Institute for Bird Populations to provide baseline data on trends, vital rates, and habitat of a number of Saipan's indigenous bird species.

Understanding population, behavioral and reproductive dynamics of Saipan's landbirds is urgent because of the numerous threats faced by such populations, many of which have already gone extinct or are highly endangered.

The goals of the project are to:

  • Provide annual indices of adult population size and post-fledging productivity
  • Provide annual estimates of survival rates, proportions of residents, and recruitment into the population
  • Assess avian demographic responses to weather and habitat variation
  • Identify population trends and causes of population change
  • Use these results to suggest habitat management actions and strategies

Six TMAPS sites for monitoring and surveying landbirds have been established on Saipan. The program focuses on four species of landbirds; Egigi (Micronesian Myzomela), Naabak (Rufous Fantail), Nosa' (Bridled White-eye), and Canario (Golden White-eye).

Project Documents

The purpose of the Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) Project is to safeguard the CNMI's unique bird species from potential extinction that could result from introduction of the brown tree snake to our islands.

The accidental introduction of the snake on the nearby island of Guahan (Guam) by the U.S. Navy has been devastating to that island's local birds and lizards, driving 10 of the 12 native bird species to local extinction. A further consequence is the loss of seed dispersion by birds that threatens the island's forests.

In response to this threat, biologists with the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service met with biologists from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to investigate strategies to safeguard CNMI's unique bird species. The MAC Project is the result of this inter-agency collaboration.

The MAC Project's long term goals are:

  • The establishment and maintenance of captive populations of potentially affected bird species, through the generous contributions of both space and personnel by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • The establishment of populations of these species in the CNMI's remote Northern Islands.

The Fanihi has been a traditional food source for the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands for thousands of years. Since the introduction of modern hunting weapons and the loss of critical habitat, fanihi numbers have plummeted and the mammal has been federally and locally listed as a threatened species since 2005. Today the only southern island with a substantial population of fanihi is Luta (Rota). The precise status of fanihi populations in the CNMI as Gani islands (Northern Islands) is unknown but the numbers are low.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has been monitoring the fanihi population on Luta since 1984 in order to understand trends and inform species and habitat conservation and management decisions.

Project Documents

Widespread habitat loss and damage from human encroachment and activities, as well as the introduction of species including rats, cats and other birds that prey on and compete with indigenous bird species has led to serious declines in bird populations in the CNMI. Six federally listed species occur on the three largest islands in the CNMI, Saipan, Tinian and Rota:

  • Aga (Mariana Crow)
  • Nosa' (Rota White-eye)
  • Gaga Karisu (Nightingale Reed-warbler)
  • Chachaguak (Mariana Swiftlet)
  • Sasangat (Micronesian Megapode)
  • Pulattat (Common Moorhen)

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has been monitoring the fanihi population on Luta since 1984 in order to understand trends and inform species and habitat conservation and management decisions.

  • Nosa' (Bridled White-eye)
  • Paluman Totot (Mariana Fruit Dove)
  • Paluman Apaka (White-throated Ground Dove)
  • Sihek (Collared Kingfisher)
  • Canario (Golden White-eye)
  • Sail (Micronesian Starling)
  • Naabak (Rufous Fantail)
  • Chichirikan Tinian (Tinian Monarch)
  • Egigi (Micronesian Honeyeater)

Of these, the Chichirikan Tinian was listed as endangered, but de-listed by the federal government in 2004 and by the CNMI government in 2009.

Division of Fish and Wildlife avion biologists monitor bird populations, distribution and migratory behaviors on Saipan, Tinian and Luta. This information is used to inform management decisions and to gauge the effectiveness of various conservation strategies. Monitoring falls into the following groupings:

  • Breeding Bird Monitoring
  • Shorebird, Wader-bird, Water-bird Monitoring
  • Mariana Swiftlet Monitoring
  • Rota Seabird Monitoring
  • Rota White-eye Monitoring
  • Christmas Bird Count

This project will be initiated in 2015 to investigate the effects of environmental disturbance upon behaviors and habitat use by the Nightingale Reed-warbler. The Nightingale Reed-warbler is a federally listed endangered species historically known from six islands in the Mariana archipelago: Guam, Tinian, Aguiguan, Saipan, Alamagan and Pagan. The species has been extinct on Guam since the late 1960's, extirpated from Pagan before 1981, and has not been detected on Aguiguan since the 1980's. Populations of the reed-warbler currently persist only on Alamagan and Saipan.

This project will employ the methods of radio-telemetry and color banding to better determine the effect that development on Saipan has upon the reed-warbler.

In 1999, a small colony of Paya'ya (Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Puffinus pacificus) was discovered nesting in the sandy soil and under half buried WWII installations on Mañagaha island on Saipan's western fringing reef. The discovery led to a community response with the formation of the Mañagaha Shearwater Conservation Team and the establishment of the Shearwater Conservation Program with the goal of protecting and studying these migratory birds.

Shearwaters nest on Mañagaha from April through December. When the colony was discovered, it suffered from high chick mortality caused by cats and rats, both of which were eradicated from the island in 2002. Monitoring of this colony began the same year.

Biologists, local volunteers and representatives from the tourism industry work together to route tourist foot traffic away from the nests, reduce colony disturbance, monitor nest histories, and collect data on the bird's morphology and growth. Both adult birds and chicks are banded to enable scientists to estimate survival and productivity as well as the size of the Mañagaha population. Birds were also tagged to monitor their long-distance flight patterns in order to gather data on the bird's life history characteristics, foraging range and migratory routes.

Project Documents

DFW is responsible for the management and conservation of the CNMI's wildlife resources. Much of this responsibility involves performing regular tasks, such as monitoring populations of species of economic, social, and ecological importance, and providing technical support for members of the public who choose or are forced to interact with wildlife. While such activities comprise a large part of managing wildlife, an equally important part is responding to unexpected events that could negatively impact the public and/or this valued resource. Early detection of disease and invasive species is critical to protecting endemic and native wildlife populations on islands from extinction.

  • DFW Lab Facilities
  • Brown Tree Snake Surveys and Randomized Trapping

The Division of Fish and Wildlife provides technical guidance to local and federal agencies, developers, the public and other stakeholders involved in land use and development projects. The goal is to help constituents minimize negative effects of their proposed project's to protected plants, wildlife and wildlife habitat as well as to manage and conserve wildlife habitat.

Technical guidance is in the form of consultation, habitat and species surveys and is available before projects are begun. It is also an important part of the One Start permitting process for land clearing and development projects (contact the CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality for permit information).