Save the Albatross

By: Arjen Drost

Jan 17 2016

Tags: , , ,

Category: Birds, Conservation, nature, Photography, Polar

1 Comment

Aperture:f/5.6
Focal Length:600mm
ISO:400
Shutter:1/1250 sec
Camera:Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Young Wandering Albatross

Like I said before, I’m a great fan of albatrosses. However, most albatrosses are on the IUCN red list. Out of the 22 species, 15 are categorised as vulnerable or worse and 3 of them are critically endangered. One of their problems is their long lifespan and the slow reproduction. These Wandering Albatrosses spent the first 5-8 years at sea before they return to their breeding grounds to find a partner and start breeding. In these 5-8 years a lot of things can happen. One of the big threats during this time is the long-line fishing. These ships drag very long lines behind them, with hooks at a certain interval. When these lines are set, the albatrosses who follow the fishing ships see the bait and will try to catch the bait. This often results in them being caught by the hooks themselves and being dragged under water for a long time. As they follow ships regularly, like the bird above, the chances are quite high that this happens during the those first years, killing the animals before they can reproduce.

When they start incubating, another problem occurs. Humans often accidentally introduced rats and mice to the breeding islands of these birds. As albatrosses are not used to having land predators around, they don’t try to avoid predation like that. This means the nests are easily accessible and the chicks don’t even know how to defend themselves (see here for a shocking video of mice eating an albatross chick alive).

The last main problem is the amount of plastic in the sea. Albatrosses are quite opportunistic feeders, mainly feeding on krill and fish, but trying other things as they see it. This means they can swallow large amounts of plastic, that will accumulate in their stomachs, stopping them to eat more (see here for a video of the result of this).

Fortunately several organisations work on these problems and for most of them solutions are available. There are several measures that can be taken to avoid catching albatrosses with long line fishing, on South Georgia they managed to eradicate all rats from the island and initiatives are taken to clean the seas of plastic. However, all these initiatives cost a lot of money. The Save the Albatross campaign of birdlife international/RSPB is a good way to support the protection of these magnificent animals.

With all that help, lets hope this young bird will be able to reproduce in a couple of years and produce new offspring.

One comment on “Save the Albatross”

  1. This is so sad but very similar to the problems many other birds face. For example, one of my favorites – vultures are continually poisened to death by farmers leaving poisened carcasses for the wolves who eat their livestock. I’m sad every time I see such a report.


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