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.

Contact the ACAP Information Officer if you wish to have your news featured.

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No introduced Reindeer remain on a South Atlantic seabird island

The introduced Reindeer Rangifer tarandus of South Georgia (Isla Georgias del Sur)* are no more.  Following the removal of the Busen herd in January and February last year (click here) this year attention switched to the animals on the Barff Peninsula.

The second phase got underway on 3 January when six hunters from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate were deployed to shoot the remaining animals on the peninsula, following the shooting of 1555 Reindeer there in 2013 (click here).

A Reindeer on South Georgia (Isla Georgias del Sur)*, photograph by Martin Collins

“Despite challenging terrain and some of the worst summer weather in recent years, the marksmen completed systematic searches of all areas with reindeer and shot 3,140 animals in a six-week period.  In the coming months, the area will be thoroughly checked to ensure that it has been cleared.”

The FPV Pharos SG acted as a support vessel, assisting in the deployment of the shooters and their gear.  The shooters were based in tented field camps as well as field huts.  Meat was recovered from some of the animals shot for local consumption.  Observers were posted in St Andrews Bay during shooting in the area to observe the effect of shooting on the King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus colony and to ensure there was no disturbance to the birds.

With the over 1900 animals eliminated from the Busen area of the island last year over 6600 Reindeer have now been removed from the island (click here).

“Alongside the work to remove reindeer, several scientific research projects were undertaken, including the collection of samples for genetic analysis and filming for behavioural research.  Science teams have also continued to monitor vegetation and bird communities [including of ACAP-listed burrowing White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis] to track the recovery of the island’s systems after the eradication.  Although it will take a number of years for the full benefits of the eradication to be realised, there are early signs of vegetation recovery, especially in the Busen area, which has now been free from reindeer for almost a year.”

Habitat to improve for White-chinned Petrels without Reindeer?

Photograph by Ben Phalan

Click here for another news item on the successful Reindeer eradication.

With thanks to Jennifer Lee for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 February 2014

*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.

Proposed Aotea Conservation Park should help improve conservation status of New Zealand’s endemic Black Petrel

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation is considering declaring a conservation park on parts of Great Barrier Island (Aotea) lying 80 km north-east of Auckland and has called for public comment with a deadline of month end (click here).

The ACAP-listed and Vulnerable Black or Parkinson’s Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni breeding locality on Great Barrier Island, known as the Hirakimata/Kaitoke Swamp Ecological Area, will fall within the proposed Aotea Conservation Park.

Black Petrel at its breeding site, photograph by David Boyle

 Black Petrel breeding habitat on Great Barrier Island, photograph by Biz Bell

Elizabeth (Biz) Bell, Black Petrel researcher with Wildlife Management International writes to ACAP:

“I personally think this is a good development as the move in New Zealand at the moment is to develop partnerships between different interest groups and stakeholders to protect and enhance important areas.  This proposal will be another layer of protection – and a management group to make decisions on use and changes.  Added protection may also mean there are more options for obtaining personnel to undertake predator control and wider funding options.”

Read the proposal's discussion document here.

Click here for an NGO view on the proposed new park with a call for a national park instead.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 February 2014

Black-browed Albatrosses forage inshore in Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Javier Arata (Instituto Antártico Chileno, Punta Arenas, Chile) and colleagues write in the journal Polar Biology on inshore foraging by Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris that breed within Admiralty Sound, Tierra del Fuego.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Black-browed albatrosses are the most abundant albatross species of the southern hemisphere, breeding on sub-Antarctic and Antarctic oceanic islands around the globe.  Their foraging habitat during the breeding season is reasonably well known along its distributional range, indicating a preferred use of waters <500 m deep.  The discovery of a colony inserted within the Admiralty Sound, Tierra del Fuego, poses an interesting challenge to the known precepts on foraging behavior for the species.  In this study, we present the first record on the foraging distribution of the only known inner-channel colony of albatrosses in the world, using high-resolution GPS loggers.  Black-browed albatrosses breeding at the Albatross Islet used exclusively inner-channel waters, at least during the chick-guard stage.  Our results indicate a significant smaller foraging range during chick-guard compared with conspecifics from Diego Ramirez and Falklands/Malvinas Islands.  Implications for the conservation of this colony are discussed.”


Black-browed Albatross, photograph by Genevieve Jones


Arata, J., Vila, A.J., Matus, R., Droguett, D., Silva-Quintas, C., Falabella, V., Robertson, G. & Haro, D. 2014.  Use and exploitation of channel waters by the black-browed albatross.  Polar Biology DOI 10.1007/s00300-014-1458-1.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 February 2014

You go that way, I’ll go this way. How do three albatross species at South Africa’s Marion Island partition resources at sea?

Maëlle Connan (Zoology Department, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series on diets of three albatross species at Marion Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“A combination of dietary techniques that integrate data on food and feeding habits over days, weeks and months was used to investigate resource partitioning among 3 sympatric albatrosses, namely the grey-headed Thalassarche chrysostoma (GHA), light-mantled sooty Phoebetria palpebrata (LMSA) and sooty Phoebetria fusca (SA) albatrosses.  These medium-size albatrosses typically breed every 2 yr, and Marion Island (southern Indian Ocean) is the only breeding site where the 3 species are accessible.  Stomach content analysis provided dietary information about the most recent meal, analysis of fatty acids in stomach oils about the last foraging trip, and carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values of blood and feathers about the chick-rearing (breeding) and moulting periods, respectively.  The combination of techniques highlighted a complex pattern regarding the spatial and trophic segregation between the 3 species.  During both seasons, SA were spatially segregated from LMSA and GHA, foraging farther north (in subantarctic and subtropical areas) than the 2 other species (subantarctic and Antarctic waters).  When feeding for themselves during the breeding season (blood isotopic signatures), adults showed a clear spatial segregation.  When bringing back food for their chicks (stomach contents), trophic segregation became obvious, with the 2 Phoebetria species specializing mostly on squids.  The results illustrate how sympatrically breeding birds can show niche partitioning through both spatial segregation and prey specialization.”

Sooty Albatross chick on Marion Island, photograph by Marienne de Villiers

With thanks to Maëlle Connan for information.


Connan, M., McQuaid, C.D., Bonnevie, B.T., Smale, M.J. & Cherel, Y. 2014.  Combined stomach content, lipid and stable isotope analyses reveal spatial and trophic partitioning among three sympatric albatrosses from the Southern Ocean.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 497: 259-272.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 February 2014

The Chatham Island Albatross Translocation Project succeeds in transferring 30 chicks from The Pyramid

The Vulnerable Chatham Albatross Thalassarche eremita breeds only at a single locality, The Pyramid, a privately-owned rock stack in the Chatham Islands, New Zealand.

The Pyramid: home of the Chatham Albatross

Photograph by David Thompson

On 21 January 30 downy chicks were collected from The Pyramid and moved by boat to a privately-owned release site at Point Gap, on the south-west coast of Main Chatham, where artificial nests and dummy adults had been previously set up (click here for a video clip of the operation).  The translocated chicks are being hand-fed daily on blended squid-mackerel “smoothies” and chunks of squid until they fledge in three to four months’ time.

Loading chicks at The Pyramid

On the way to the translocation site

At the translocation site before the chicks arrive: dummies and "nests" in place

Translocated chicks settle into the artificial colony among the dummy adults


Hand-feeding chicks in the translocation colony

It is intended to translocate chicks over three summers.  Fledged chicks could start returning to the colony at the age of four, and begin breeding at the age of seven.

The Chatham Island Taiko Trust is a non-profit community conservation trust, established in 1998 by Chatham residents, to protect and recover the unique and precious island's wildlife with the support and involvement of the Chatham Island community.  The trust was originally created to conserve the Critically Endangered Magenta Petrel Pterodroma magentae or Taiko.

The Chatham Island Albatross Translocation Project is partnered with the Yamashina Institute of Ornithology in Japan as well as with Chatham Island landowners.  Additional support for the translocation project has been received from the Royal Forest and Bird Society, BirdLife International, Chatham Island Conservation Board, Enterprise Trust and owners of The Pyramid, as well as from the local Chatham Island community.

The project is following methods developed by Tomohiro Deguchi and colleagues of the Yamashina Institute which is attempting to establish a new breeding population of threatened Short-tailed Albatrosses Phoebastria albatrus on Japan’s Mukojima Island (click here).

You can follow the fortunes of the Chatham Island Albatross Translocation Project on the Trust’s Facebook page.

Click here to access the ACAP Species Assessment for the Chatham Albatross and here to read earlier ACAP Latest News items on the translocation.

Translocation photographs by the Chatham Island Taiko Trust.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 February 2014

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