A scientist tracked down an incredibly rare bird and took the first ever photo of a male of the species before killing it shortly thereafter.
Dr. Chris Filardi, the director of Pacific Programs at the Museum of Natural History, has defended his decision to kill the bird, saying it was "collected as a specimen for additional study."
The male mustached kingfisher is found only in the Solomon Islands, specifically one island called Guadalcanal. The bird is referred to as a “ghost” because no scientist has ever captured a photo of it.
Filardi wrote about the experience of spotting the rare bird after hearing its call, which a member of the research team recorded.
“When I came upon the netted bird in the cool shadowy light of the forest I gasped aloud, ‘Oh my god, the kingfisher,’” he wrote in a Facebook post. “One of the most poorly known birds in the world was there, in front of me, like a creature of myth come to life. We now have the first photos ever taken of the bird, as well as the first definitive recordings of its unmistakable call.”
Initially, Filardi’s field journal on the Museum of Natural History’s website did not indicate that he had actually killed the bird, but it was later revealed.
Filardi’s decision to kill the bird has divided the scientific community over the morality of killing an animal for research, according to The Do Do. Ecologists have called it an “unnecessary slaying.”
Filardi disputes these claims, however, saying that the dead bird could provide scientists with important knowledge and protect the birds for years to come.
"Through a vision shared with my Solomon Island mentors, and focused keenly on sacred Uluna-Sutahuri lands, the Moustached Kingfisher I collected is a symbol of hope and a purveyor of possibility, not a record of loss,” Filardi wrote on Audubon.org.
Filardi said that this was not a “trophy hunt” and that the bird was captured “during a groundbreaking international, multi-disciplinary biodiversity survey of the uploads of Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Archipelago that was led by Pacific Islanders.”
The moustached kingfisher is technically classified as “endangered.” However, further research may reveal the species to be more common. Filardi said that locals living in Guadalcanal view the bird as being common, though that may be due to the island’s small geographical span.
The scientist and his team hope that the rediscovery of the rare bird will contribute to conservation efforts and shift focus to socioeconomic conditions in the Solomon Islands.