Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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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.

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Modeling shows the Antipodean Albatrosses of Antipodes Island are in decline

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Antipodean Albatross pair on Antipodes Island, photograph by Erica Sommer

Yvan Richards (Dragonfly Data Science) has produced a report for the Conservation Services Programme of the Department of Conservation on population modeling of the nominate subspecies of the New Zealand endemic Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis (globally Endangered) that breeds on Antipodes Island.  Annual survival rate and breeding success both decreased over the period 1984 to 2004.

The report’s summary follows:

Antipodean albatross Diomedea antipodensis antipodensis are endemic to New Zealand, with the quasi-totality of the population nesting on Antipodes Island. The species is classified as Nationally Critical due to a potential demographic decline. Threats to the population include incidental mortality in fisheries (in New Zealand and in international waters) and climate change.

The objective of this project was to provide a tool that allows stakeholders to explore the potential impact of threats and the demographic outcomes of management strategies. Using the tool, simulations of the demographic impact of different scenarios may be carried out so that management strategies can be assessed and prioritised.

A small subset of the population of Antipodean albatross has been studied since 1994, and these field data were used to perform the simulations. A Bayesian integrated population model was developed to estimate the main demographic parameters of the population. The model considered detectability of individuals, inter-annual variability, and movements in and out of the study area; it was fitted using the software Stan.

From the model, the annual survival rate for females was estimated to decline from 0.947 (95% c.i.: 0.914 – 0.974) in the period from 1994 to 2004, to 0.882 (95% c.i.: 0.814 – 0.94) after 2005. Estimated survival for males was higher, at 0.946 (95% c.i.: 0.913 – 0.972) and 0.927 (95% c.i.: 0.887 – 0.961) for the two periods. Breeding success also declined between the two periods, from 72.4% (95% c.i.: 65.8% – 78.6%) from 1994 to 2004 to 63.7% (95% c.i.: 53.4% – 73%) subsequently.

Under the current scenario, simulations suggest a significant decline of the population, with an annual growth rate of -4.84% (95% c.i.: -6.07% – -3.65%). Limitations in the data and in the model assumptions may cause the decline to be slightly overestimated; however, the trend remains of concerns.

The simulation tool is aimed to assist conservation managers with the prioritisation of management strategies to mitigate threats to the Antipodean albatross population and to guarantee the persistence of this species.:”

Reference:

Richard, Y. 2021.  Integrated Population Model of Antipodean Albatross for simulating Management Scenarios. Technical Report prepared for Department of Conservation – June 2021. Wellington: Dragonfly Data Science.  31 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 July 2021

A Northern Royal Albatross chick dies after supplementary feeding

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Hands-on management: a Northern Royal Albatross chick gets weighed at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head; Department of Conservation webcam photograph

The Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi colony on New Zealand’s mainland at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head is intensively managed in a number of ways aimed at increasing breeding success.  One method regularly used is the supplementary feeding of chicks deemed to be underweight for their age that has been used successfully for decades at the colony; over the last three seasons more than 275 supplementary feeds have been carried out without incident. So far this season, 15 chicks have received a total of 77 supplementary feeds.

The Department of Conservation has now reported that an underweight 146-day-old male chick died after a routine supplementary feeding this month.  “The rangers noticed the chick had laboured breathing after the feed.  The bird’s condition deteriorated very quickly and unfortunately it died.”  The chick was sent to Massey University for a necropsy to determine the exact cause of death, where a sizeable piece of rocky material resembling charcoal was found in the chick’s trachea, causing asphyxiation.

“It is not known how the chick first ingested the rock, but it is thought the parent may have picked it up while fishing (as charcoal floats) and fed it to the chick, which then regurgitated the material while being supplementarily fed and inhaled it.  Chicks can become underweight for several reasons. Their parents may be inexperienced foragers or new to feeding a chick, there may be poor food resources at sea, or the chick may have lost a parent so is only getting food from one parent. It may also be caused by an underlying health condition.  The colony at Pukekura is intensively managed to give the chicks the best chance of survival.  Issues that rangers help to mitigate include extreme temperatures, fly strike on hatching chicks, predators, and underweight chicks.”

There are now 32 chicks remaining out of the 36 that hatched this season from 41 eggs laid late last year (a hatching success of 87.8%) at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head, a record number since the first chick fledged in 1938.

Read the original news post here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 July 2021

Tracking the migration of the Yelkouan Shearwater from Croatia into the Black Sea

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Tracking the Yelkouan Shearwater from Croatia

Seabirds in the Mediterranean are increasingly threatened by climate change, depletion of sea food resources, and other human related impacts (by-catch capture, artificial light pollution, habitat destruction).  A pilot study aims to understand the migratory movements of a species endemic to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, the globally Vulnerable Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan - a species that has been identified as a candidate for ACAP listing.  Previous work has indicated that some of the birds remain in the Mediterranean Basin while others travel to the Black Sea.  GPS-GSM transmitters were deployed on 15 Yelkouan Shearwaters (11 adults and four juveniles) on 29 June, just before they leave their colony from Zaklopatica in the Lastovo Archipelago, Croatia by Sven Kapelj and his team from Udruga BIOM.  These transmitters allow detailed live tracking without the need for recapture and fall naturally from the birds after a few weeks of tracking (click here).

The study is being coordinated by the Mediterranean Science Commission (CIESM) with co-funding from the Prince Albert II Foundation of Monaco for a four-year period (2020-2024) as part of the new programme Highly Migratory Species entitled "Tracking Highly Migratory Species in the Mediterranean & adjacent Seas".

Follow the blog of the study and also live tracking of the birds’ at-sea movements.

An edited example for 14 July follows:

“A7 has now arrived in the Black Sea, after having crossed the Dardanelles, the Marmara Sea and now the Bosphorus in the last 24 hours hardly without stopping.  Its trajectory so far appears optimal: it took exactly one week to fly over 2000 km since leaving its nesting site in Croatian waters!  This is quite a feat, compared to two other shearwaters (A2, A5) which have paused (or ended their journey?) in the Aegean Sea, in the vicinity of known Greek colonies.”

With thanks to Loriane Mendez, The Mediterranean Science Commission, Monaco.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 July 2021, updated 16 July 2021

Matching Marine Protected Areas in the South Atlantic with Terrestrial Protected Areas

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Grey-headed Albatross on Bird Island, South Atlantic; photograph by Richard Phillips

The intention was announced last month to designate Terrestrial Protected Areas that will cover the entire landmass of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur)* in the South Atlantic.

“The creation of Terrestrial Protected Areas, complements the Marine Protected Area, which covers the whole 1.24m km2 maritime zone and is an exemplar in delivering world-class protection, coupled with sustainable use.  This is a model that works for nature and works for society.   Bringing a similar rigour to the 3,800kmlandmass marks an important step in consolidating existing protection measures and careful management and enshrining them in law.  Today’s announcement builds on the 1st September 2020 release of the mandatory visitor film narrated by the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.  An inspirational look at how the territory is sustainably managed and why the steps each visitor is asked to take are so vital to the Islands’ protection.”

The announcement says that the South Georgia Protected Area will focus on protection of the ecosystem and promotion of biodiversity, facilitating globally significant science alongside sustainable visits.  The South Sandwich Islands Protected Area will recognise their pristine nature, absence of introduced species and strengthen the inherent protection that arises from their inaccessibility.  In a second phase further work will be undertaken to identify areas that need additional research, monitoring and management within the Protected Areas.

Read more here and here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 June 2021

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

Snowflake plus 26! All the translocated Black-footed Albatrosses have fledged from Mexico’s Guadalupe Island

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A translocated Black-footed Albatross fledgling on Isla Guadalupe, photograph by J.A. Soriano, GECI

An international Black-footed Albatross translocation project from the USA’s Midway Atoll in Hawaii to Isla Guadalupe in Mexico has met with success in its first year with 27 translocated chicks fledging, the last on 7 July.  Two NGOs, Hawaii’s Pacific Rim Conservation (PRC) and Mexico’s Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas (GECI), coordinated efforts with the federal governments of both countries to transfer 21 eggs (of which 18 hatched) and nine chicks (which have been hand raised) between the two islands.  The first bird to fledge, named “Snowflake”, left the island on 17 June, just two days before World Albatross Day (click here).

“About three weeks ago, we let you know about “Snowflake”, the first black-footed albatross, translocated as an egg from Midway Atoll, born and raised on Guadalupe Island that successfully fledged from the island.  Well, after busy days both for the black-foots exercising their wings, and the biologists nurturing them, around noon of July 7th, the last female chick (aka “7”) opened her wings for the last time while on land and took flight with a strong wind into the Pacific Ocean.  Such event marked the closure of the first of three years of conservation translocations, with a 100% fledging success, as good as it gets!”

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A translocated Black-footed Albatross fledgling bearing metal and colour bands takes to the air  on Isla Guadalupe, photograph by J.A. Soriano, GECI

The international team aims to move up to 42 eggs and 25 chicks per year in order to have at least 100 individuals to form a new breeding colony on Isla Guadalupe.

Spanish colleagues please click here!

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 July 2021