Post sponsored by

Source: Department of Conservation

Date:  01 March 2021

A professional conservation couple will give a public lecture in New Plymouth on their 30 years of experience observing albatross as part of Seaweek 2021.

Each summer for the last 30 years Department of Conservation (DOC) scientists Dr Kath Walker and Dr Graeme Elliott have worked on New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands where they have witnessed the decline of two of our country’s largest albatross species.

The George Mason Charitable Trust has sponsored the two scientists to be in New Plymouth during Seaweek 2021 (6 March to 14 March), to talk about their work on the Auckland and Antipodes Islands.

The scientists have in recent years concentrated on studying the Antipodean albatross, and discovered female birds are dying at a much faster rate than males. 

“The females feed in the same ocean area as the large high seas tuna and swordfish fleets,” Kath Walker says.

“In our study area there are now three times more males than females, which means there are a lot of lonely males, far fewer breeding pairs and consequently many less chicks produced than in the past: it’s a downward spiral for the population.” 

For their Seaweek talk they will describe how they have attached GPS satellite tracking devices to albatrosses to work out where the birds are dying at sea, and the impact these losses are having on the species’ populations. The trust has sponsored one of the GPS satellite devices used to monitor the birds.

The couple has contributed personal funds to help cover boat costs to get to the islands and have used holiday leave to keep the study going. 

“Studying albatrosses on remote islands isn’t cheap, and GPS satellite tracking devices come at quite a high cost. However, without this research we wouldn’t know why we are losing these birds nor how to try and stop the losses,” says Graeme Elliott.

The couple will give their public talk on 11 March from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the New Plymouth Central Baptist Church, 89 Liardet Street, New Plymouth. There is a koha entry to help recover the Antipodean albatross.

View the Sentinel of the Ocean video by America’s Cup sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke describing the perilous state of the Antipodean albatross.


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