Albatross chicks could help endangered bird
A pack of 10 gooney bird chicks, still fuzzy and flightless, flew into Kauai yesterday -- on a chartered plane.
Japanese researchers are set to raise the wild birds and thus get a leg up on saving their country's own endangered golden gooney.
The birds, also known as Laysan albatross, will be held in quarantine for about three days, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The nests of nearly 500,000 gooney birds blanket the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge about 1,000 miles northwest of Kauai.
Japanese researchers hope that through learning how to nurture the 1-month-old chicks of the relatively numerous Laysan albatross, they will better understand how to save Japan's short-tailed albatross, or golden gooney.
"This unique pilot project allows us to share our previous knowledge and experience with our Japanese counterparts across the Pacific while also expanding that knowledge and experience through cooperative efforts to recover this endangered seabird," said Barry Stieglitz, project leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
This photo, date unknown, provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shows a newborn gooney bird chick with an adult gooney, also known as the Laysan albatross, on Kauai. A pack of 10 gooney bird chicks arrived via chartered plane yesterday morning from the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
Though once among the most abundant species of albatross in the North Pacific, millions of short-tailed albatrosses were killed for their feathers before and after the turn of the 20th century. Fewer than 2,000 birds are believed to be alive today.
The birds now live primarily at two remote sites in the western Pacific Ocean. Researchers in Japan are looking to establish new colonies of the birds at safer locations.
About 85 percent breed on Torishima Island. That island, however, is an active volcano. And the natural colony of the species is located on a spot vulnerable to mudslides and erosion. An artificial colony has also been set up at a less dangerous spot on the island.
Southwest of Torishima, another breeding site is located in the Senkaku Islands. Those islands, however, are subject to oil exploration and are a disputed territory also claimed by China, which refers to the islands as the Diaoyu.
On Kauai the Laysan albatross chicks will be raised in a section of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge closed to the public.
Participants in the program include Dr. Tomohiro Deguchi and Tomaka Harada of Yamashina Institute of Ornithology and Toho University in Japan, and Linda Elliot of the Hawaii Wildlife Center.
Harada will be feeding and rearing the chicks, as well as collecting data on them during the study, which is expected to last until the chicks begin their first flights in July.