BirdLife International is the official “Red-Listing Authority” for the world’s birds, working on behalf of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Each year, BirdLife makes a call for experts to comment on the threatened status of birds with which they are involved or are familiar. These comments are then posted on BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Bird Forum for a form of peer review and to where further comments can be added. From this “electronic conversation”, BirdLife decides on any needed changes to threatened status following the IUCN Red List criteria.
Because of its declining numbers and both sea- and land-based threats (see earlier ACAP news items), it has been proposed by Ross Wanless of South Africa (who has recently submitted his PhD on the bird) and Richard Cuthbert and Geoff Hilton of the United Kingdom that the Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena may merit being recategorized from Endangered to Critically Endangered.
Breeding by the Tristan Albatross on Gough Island in 2007 continues to be very poor, with only 427 chicks being counted in September 2007, giving an estimated breeding success over the whole island of 33%, far lower than the 75% or so known for great albatrosses at other localities. Adding to the alarm is that the 2007 breeding cohort is the lowest yet recorded at 1279 incubating pairs (down from 2400 pairs in 2001).
Albatross surveys on Gough in recent years have been undertaken with the support of the United Kingdom’s Overseas Territories Environment Programme and Birds Australia’s Albatross Project (www.birdsaustralia.com.au/albatross which utilizes funds donated by passengers on IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) cruises in the Southern Ocean.
News from John Cooper, ACAP Honorary Information Officer