JOSEPH FLORES MEMORIAL PARK, YPAO BEACH, Guam --
Approximately 28 Marines and sailors from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 and Strike Fighter Squadron 94 took part in the sixth annual Guam Ko’ko Road Race Ekiden Relay and Half Marathon here Oct. 16. A total of 1,600 participants, including the service members from MALS- 12, VMFA -115 and VFA -94, took part in the run to show their support and recognize the Ko’ko birds, the official territorial bird of Guam and its struggle to survive. The race served to raise awareness of the plight of the Ko’ko, a flightless species native to the island that teeters on the brink of extinction.
“The Ko’ko is extremely endangered,” said John Wesoloski, Ko’ko race director. “There are very few in the wild and we just want to make people aware of that.”
The Brown Tree Snake is one of the more serious threats endangering the Ko’ko.
The Brown Tree Snake was first introduced to the island during World War II.
With the snake having no natural predators, the Brown Tree Snake quickly climbed to the top of the food chain.
The Ko’ko along with several other native birds have either gone extinct or are on the brink of extinction due to the snakes presence.
The snakes have singlehandedly eradicated twelve bird species native to Guam.
“We need to be conscious of not only the Ko’ko bird, but all the other endangered animals and do what we can to protect them and our environment,” said Wesoloski.
Some Ko’ko run participants did not know of the struggle between bird and snake.
“I honestly did not know anything about the Ko’ko bird until this,” said Seaman Samantha J. Keeler, a VFA -94 aviation ordnanceman and race participant. “I didn’t realize they are as endangered as they are.”
Some participants were excited at the opportunity to take part in the race. Others were excited about the amount of support and participation there was in the event.
“I was pretty excited, I was actually waiting for it,” said Keeler. “A lot of other people were excited as well.”
Excitement was just one reason Marines and sailors participated in the event.
“(Events) such as this to raise awareness really help because a lot of people don’t know about it, like me,” said Keeler. “I would never have known about (the issue) if someone hadn’t told me there was a race.”
The run was not only a way for the Marines and sailors to help raise awareness of the Ko’ko but to also show their support to the local community.
“It’s always a good opportunity for us to get out here and support the community,” said Lt. j.g. David Doyle, VFA -94 maintenance material control officer and race participant. “It’s important that the community feel like we’re part of their family as well. Anything we can do to help the communities we live in as a military is very important.”
Each year the Guam Ko’ko Road Race has been steadily growing.
The previous year had 1,400 participants.
This year brought approximately 200 more participants to the streets in support of the Ko’ko bird cause.