ACAP Latest News

Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

Contact the ACAP Communications Advisor if you wish to have your news featured.

It’s in the blood: albatrosses and petrels get checked for parasites at a rehabilitation centre in South Africa

Nola Parsons (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, Bloubergrant, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Veterinary Parasitology on blood parasites found in seabirds taken in for rehabilitation.

Six ACAP-listed species of albatrosses and petrels were examined with Hepatozoon albatrossi recorded in one of eight Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophrisPlasmodium sp. was found in one of 18 Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli.  Spirochaete bacteria were found in a single Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus out of 27 examined.  Blood parasites were not detected in 17 White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis, two Shy Albatrosses T. cauta and one Light-Mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata.  Infection levels in Southern Ocean procellariiforms, including ACAP-listed species examined, were much lower than in more inshore-foraging continental species.

 

Black-browed Albatross, phtotograph by Richard Phillips

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Blood parasites are generally uncommon in seabirds, and knowledge on their epidemiology is further limited by the fact that they often inhabit remote locations that are logistically difficult or expensive to study. We present a long term data set of blood smear examinations of 1909 seabirds belonging to 27 species that were admitted to a rehabilitation centre in Cape Town (Western Cape, South Africa) between 2001 and 2013.  Blood parasites were detected in 59% of species (16/27) and 29% of individuals examined (551/1909).  The following blood parasites were recorded: Babesia ugwidiensis, Babesia peircei, Babesia sp., Plasmodium sp., Leucocytozoon ugwidi, Hepatozoon albatrossi, Haemoproteus skuae and Spirochaetales.  Several of the records are novel host-parasite associations, demonstrating the potential of rehabilitation centres for parasite and disease surveillance, particularly for species infrequently sampled from which no host-specific parasites have been described.”

Reference:

Parsons, N.J., Voogt, N.M., Schaefer, A.M., Peirce, M.A. & Vanstreels, .RE.T. 2017.  Occurrence of blood parasites in seabirds admitted for rehabilitation in the Western Cape, South Africa, 2001–2013.  Veterinary Parasitology 233: 52-61.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 February 2017

Plasma chemistry of the Black-browed Albatross

Miguel Ferrer (Applied Ecology Group, Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC) Seville, Spain) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on blood plasma values of Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris chicks and adults.

The paper’s abstract follows:

Blood chemical reference values and variations in them in long-lived endangered birds are of metabolic, veterinary, ecological and/or taxonomic interest.  In the present study, we for the first time provide such reference values and test the influence of sex, age, and nest location on up to 11 plasma values in nesting black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys [sic]) that we sampled in 2015 on the Falkland Islands.  Our results showed that differences between sexes were not significant for any of the parameters for which we tested.  We found insignificant differences in metabolically related parameters in nestlings being raised in the middle of nesting colonies and those being raised at the edges of the colonies indicating that nest location did not affect the nutritional status or health of young, developing albatrosses.  Conversely, age had a significant effect on a number of metabolites, inorganic ions and enzymatic activity.  In particular, age-related differences in glucose, triglyceride, urea, and uric acid suggested that the relative metabolic rate was higher in nestling than in adult albatrosses.”

 

Black-browed Albatrosses allopreening, photograph by Aleks Terauds

Reference:

Ferrer, M., Morandini, V., Perry, L. & Bechard, M. 2017.  Factors affecting plasma chemistry values of the black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrysPolar Biology doi:10.1007/s00300-017-2075-6.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 February 2017

Employment opportunities: help conserve Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses on World Heritage Gough Island for a year

A Senior Research Assistant and two Research Assistants are once again required for island restoration work on Gough Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, a World Heritage Site.  Fieldwork will include demographic monitoring of the Critically Endangered and near-endemic Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, seriously at risk to attacks by alien House Mice Mus musculus, as well as of four other species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.  Alien plant eradication also forms part of the work.  All three posts will be for a period of 15 months, consisting of two months pre-deployment training and 13 months deployment on Gough.

A male Tristan Albatross on its nest site near Gonydale on Gough Island investigates the photographer, Tom McSherry

“The primary rationale for these positions is to support the restoration of Gough Island.  We wish to attract committed candidates who will adapt to the requirements of this restoration programme and remain focused on the outputs needed to progress this globally important effort.  This position will offer a unique opportunity for highly motivated and disciplined individuals with relevant fieldwork skills and a keen interest in wildlife, who will adapt well to a small island living in a challenging sub-Antarctic environment.”

Details of the three posts and how to apply can be found on the website of the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) by clicking on Senior Research Assistant and two Research Assistants.  The closing date is 28 February 2017.

Click here for the previous year’s advert.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 February 2017

Saving Tristan Albatrosses from mice in 2019: the UK Government has committed £1.75 million to support the Gough Island Restoration Programme

The UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is working towards the eradication of “killer” House Mice Mus musculus on Gough Island, where they have been reducing breeding success of near-endemic and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena to unsustainable levels for well over a decade – as regularly reported in ACAP Latest News (click here).

A Tristan Albatross chick after overnight attacks by mice, the bird died soon afterwards; photograph by Sylvain Dromzee

Along with the need to draw up complex plans for a helicopter-borne poison bait drop over the whole island, set to take place in the austral winter of 2019, is the requirement to raise the necessary funds for the operation (click here).

An eradication exercise in the mid-Atlantic is clearly going to be expensive, possibly costing as much as six million pounds, so the recent announcement by the RSPB that the UK Government has committed £1.75 million to support the Gough Island Restoration Programme is a welcome start (click here).

The UK had previously announced its intention to support the eradication of invasive mice on Gough Island at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CoP13) held in Cancun, Mexico last month (click here).

Click here for an illustrated information brochure about the eradication programme and view the mouse attack video.  A donations page has been set up by the RSPB to receive contributions.

Thanks to Clare Stringer, Head of International Species Recovery Unit, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 31 January 2017

Climate can effect recruitment age of Wandering Albatrosses

Rémi Fay (Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Villiers-en-Bois, France) and colleagues have published in the journal Functional Ecology on how climate and population density effect Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans at different stages of their lives.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“1.  Although population responses to environmental variability have been extensively studied for many organisms, few studies have considered early-life stages owing to the inherent difficulties in tracking the fate of young individuals.  However, young individuals are expected to be more sensitive to environmental stochasticity owing to their inexperience and lower competitive abilities.  Thus, they are keys to understand demographic responses of an age-structured population to environmental variability.

2.  In this study, we used capture-recapture modelling, based on a 49 year-long individual-based longitudinal monitoring dataset, to investigate climatic and population density effects on immature demographic parameters in a long-lived seabird, the wandering albatross.

3.  We provide evidence that climate and population size affected both survival and recruitment age of young individuals although in different ways according to the trait.  We found that early-life survival was mainly affected by population density, whereas recruitment age variation appeared to be better explained by climatic conditions, with a surprising long-term effect of climate.  While population size explained 60% of the variation in juvenile survival, average Southern Annular Mode over the five previous years explained 52% of variation in recruitment age.

4.  Additionally, although early-life survival was consistently negatively affected by population size, the relationship between recruitment age and population size shifted from negative to positive over time from the 1970s to 2000s, showing that density dependence mechanisms can temporarily disappear.

5.  Finally, we found that similar climatic conditions may affect individual performances in opposite ways according to the life stage of individuals.  This result underlines the critical need to assess age specific functional responses to environmental variability to allow accurate demographic predictions.  By revealing the poorly known demographic process of younger age classes, the results of this study improve our understanding of population dynamics of long lived marine species.”

Wandering Albatross at sea, photograph by John Chardine

Reference:

Fay, R., Barbraud, C., Delord, K., & Weimerskirch, H. 2017.  Contrasting effects of climate and population density over time and life-stages in a long-lived seabird.  Functional Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12831.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 January 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.

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