A scientist captured the first ever photo of a male bird which is known to be a "ghost" within the ornithological community, or a lost species that is recorded with only a few information. After a few minutes, the scientist opted to kill the ghost for further study.
For 60 years, no scientist has taken the photo of this ghost known as the Guadalcanal moustached kingfisher. The bird lives in the Solomon Islands and has beautiful blue streaks on its beak leading to the side of the head, hence the term "moustached". The species has only been documented twice before.
Chris Filardi, Pacific programs director for the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation in the American Museum of Natural History, rediscovered a great number of moustached kingfishers in the forests of Guadalcanal. He took a photo of the ghost and decided to euthanize it.
Frank Lambert, a member of the research team, also recorded the bird's distinctive call.
Some ecologists slammed the team's "unnecessary slaying on the pretense of conservation," but Filardi defended himself by saying that although sightings of the bird are rare, the bird itself is not.
"As I wrote from the field, this is a bird that is poorly known and elusive to western science - not rare or in imminent danger of extinction. The decision to collect an individual specimen [...] reflects standard practice for field biologists," he explained.
Researchers from International Union for Conservation of Nature estimate that the current population of the moustached kingfisher in the region it inhabits is about 250 to 1,000, which is classified to be "endangered". However, the organization said that further research may reveal it to be more common.
Filardi mentioned that the locals living in Guadalcanal view the moustached kingfisher, known to them as Mbarikuku, as common. However, this may only be the instance for the island's very small geographical span.
Filardi hopes that the rediscovery of the moustached kingfisher contributes to efforts on conservation, and shift the focus on socioeconomic conditions in the Solomon Islands and other island nations in the Pacific.
He said that foreign revenue is a major issue within these developing countries. "Just basic human welfare issues are massively challenging in a place like the Solomon Islands. I think with more international support and focus we can get these kinds of initiatives moving and done."