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StarBulletin.com

Destroying birds an act of baseness


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POSTED: Monday, April 06, 2009

As disturbing as how an entire Laysan albatross colony disappeared is why anyone would obliterate the birds. Wildlife experts believe humans were responsible for wiping out the population of birds that occupied a remote site in the north Waianae mountains, but have no idea of the reason.

There were 20 adults, 15 chicks and six nests with eggs when biologists checked in mid-February, but recently they discovered the birds were gone.

Had they been attacked by predators, remains would be scattered throughout the fenced-off site, but there were none. A subsequent search by a trained dog found no traces of the birds.

The National Audubon Society categorizes the Laysan albatross among species in rapid decline, with small populations or limited ranges and habitats. They are tame and unafraid of people and other animals, making them easy targets for predators.

The albatrosses do not breed until they are eight or nine years old and raise only one chick a year. The Waianae colony took close to 20 years to reach a size of about 50 birds and may take just as long to recover.

The albatrosses would seem to have little monetary value. Even though there is a steady worldwide market for exotic animals, a seabird with a wingspan of up to 6 feet and a primary diet of squid would not be an ideal candidate for a pet. Selling them as food or for their feathers also would be unlikely.

They are, however, significant biological, cultural and navigational resources, protected by state and federal laws. Unfortunately, laws cannot defend them from malicious actions.