Bright future for albatross chicks
Each day on the Chathams dawned in the usual manner – ferocious howlers and churned up seas – and day by day, this never-ending storm slowly chipped away at our hopes of executing a NZ first – an albatross translocation.
We were hoping to transfer 30 threatened Chatham Island albatross chicks to a specially protected site on the Main Island from a rock islet called The Pyramid in order to create a second colony.
It is the second time an albatross translocation has ever been done in the world, so let’s just say our nerves were getting rather frazzled.
In typical Murphy’s Law fashion, as soon as we were ready for the birds, it started to blow violently…..and didn’t stop for two weeks!
Finally at the end of January, our window appeared, and we set sail. Three years planning, three months full time preparation and a month’s hard graft had come to fruition. It was transfer day!
A team of 12, mostly local Chatham Islanders, went down to collect the birds. They landed amongst the bull kelp on the steep rock stack before climbing up amongst the breeding albatross.
Chicks where weighed and only those which fitted the weight criteria were selected, banded, and boxed up in purpose-built transfer boxes.
The birds were carefully carried and transferred to the waiting fishing boat by zodiac. As the day progressed the weather worsened, and conditions became rougher.
Robin and Jason Seymour did an amazing job driving the zodiac in what ended up being challenging conditions and all birds were soon safely on-board.
Once we were all back on board, it was a time to reflect on what we had achieved. The first batch of chicks had been successful collected – a history making moment.
Ruka Lanauze skippered us back to Point Gap were the birds were off loaded at the Tuku Rivermouth, and moved to their new colony.
Now several days later the birds are well settled at the new colony, each on their own artificial nest, with decoy adult albatross to help make the site look like an active albatross colony.
Each day we head out to the colony and feed them, half a kilo of fish and squid each a day! First we fed them with large syringes and now we just slip fish down their gullets.
So far the translocation has gone well; the birds have been amazing and are taking everything in their stride. It is a pleasure to sit at the colony and watch them after they have been feed, sleeping off their big meal.
The Taiko Trust would love to thank everyone who has helped so far, and to stay abreast of developments follow us at www.facebook.com/chathamtaikotrust
This albatross transfer was made possible – in part – due to a Birdlife International grant. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/partnerships/birdlife-international
To see a video of the transfer, see here – http://vimeo.com/85167666