Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Rehabilitation of Wandering Albatross

A WANDERING ALBATROSS GETS A SECOND CHANCE

It is common practice to band albatross chicks in long-term demographic study colonies. Most of these birds are not seen again for many years, when they eventually recruit as new breeders to their natal colonies. Unfortunately, many fledglings do not survive their juvenile years, and national banding schemes regularly receive reports of banded birds found dead, often as a result of drowning on long lines set in the Southern Ocean for tuna and toothfish. Far less common are reports of banded juveniles found alive away from their natal sites. This makes the story of J-18453 a remarkable one.

J-18453 was banded as a chick in the Goney Plain demographic study colony on South Africa’s sub-Antarctic MarionIsland on 4 September 2005 by ornithological field assistants Linda Clokie and Ingrid Peters. On 27 January 2006, 28 days since it was last recorded at its nest on Marion on 30 December, it was collected alive but exhausted in Warnbro Sound, south of Perth, Western Australia by Marg Larner, President of Western Australian Seabird Rescue. The bird had covered 6590 km in no more than 28 days (a minimum of 235 km/day or 10 km/hour). Cyclone Darryl had passed through Western Australia the week before and this might have adversely affected the juvenile, causing it be pushed onshore.

The albatross was taken to the WASR rehabilitation centre where it was rehydrated and given fish with vitamins and salt tablets, by hand-feeding twice daily It was successfully released at sea a few days later on 1 February 20 nautical miles off Mandurah in Western Australia by Marg Larner and members of the Mandurah Water Rescue Group.

Researchers at MarionIsland will now have the opportunity from about half a decade from now to look out for J-18453 returning to Goney Plain as an adult bird. If it does, it will add to a remarkable story and fully justify the rehabilitation efforts made in Australia.

Parties to the Albatross and Petrel Agreement interact mainly in meeting rooms and via electronic communication in their efforts to conserve albatrosses and petrels of the Southern Ocean. In this case a South African Wandering Albatross has been given a second chance in Australia. Just one bird this time, but perhaps symbolic of the way ACAP expects its Parties to work together to save its listed species.

Information supplied by Linda Clokie, Lisa Hardy, Marg Larner and SAFRING; written by John Cooper, Vice-Chair, ACAP Advisory Committee

Posted July 2006

Fig. 1. J-18453 soon after capture in Australia. Note the South African band on the exposed leg.

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Fig. 2 Marg Larner with the juvenile Wanderer. Note the restraining jacket used when hand-feeding the bird. 

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Fig. 3 The rehabilitated Wandering Albatross soon after its release at sea.

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