Avian pox virus recorded in Wandering Albatrosses and White-chinned Petrels at Marion Island

Stefan Schoombie (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Antarctic Science on the occurrence of avian pox virus in regionally and globally Vulnerable Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans and regionally and globally Vulnerable White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis at South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Albatrosses are among the most threatened groups of seabirds with the main land-based threats being alien invasive species, human disturbance and habitat degradation. Disease outbreaks in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic seabird populations are uncommon, but in the past few decades there has been an increase in reported cases. The sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands (46°S, 37°E) in the south-western Indian Ocean provide breeding grounds for many seabird species, including 44% of all wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans L.). In 2015, five wandering albatrosses and two penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome Forster and Aptenodytes patagonicus Miller) with pox-like lesions were observed on Marion Island, the larger of the two Prince Edward Islands. Despite intensive study of the wandering albatross population since the 1980s, the only previous records of such lesions are one case in 2006 and another in 2009 in white-chinned petrels (Procellaria aequinoctialis L.). Molecular and phylogenetic analysis of tissue samples from two albatross chicks confirmed the presence of avian pox virus (Avipoxvirus). This highlights the need for research into the diseases present on sub-Antarctic islands, for strict controls to limit the risk of accidental introduction of diseases through human activities and the need for effective conservation measures in the event of an outbreak.”

Wandering Albatross with its chick on Marion Island, photograph by John Cooper


Schoombie, S., Schoombie, J., Oosthuizen, A., Suleman, E., Jones, M.G.W., Pretorius, L., Dilley, B.J. & Ryan, P.G. 2017. Avian pox in seabirds on Marion Island, southern Indian Ocean. Antarctic Science https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954102017000347.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 October 2017

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

About ACAP

ACAP Secretariat

119 Macquarie St
Hobart TAS 7000

Email: secretariat@acap.aq
Tel: +61 3 6165 6674