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Meet the Waved Albatross, the most endangered Albatross out of the twenty one species within the genera known. Identified back in 1883, listed as [critically endangered] the species is known scientifically as Phoebastria irrorata. Since 2007 the Waved Albatross has been bordering complete extinction throughout its range. Endemic to Chile; Colombia; Ecuador (Galápagos); and Peru the bird is also a vagrant in Panama too. populations are still decreasing – and fast! On Española, the breeding population was estimated at c. 12,000 pairs in 1970-1971, 15,600-18,200 pairs in 1994 and at least 34,694 adults in 2001. On Isla de la Plata, there are probably fewer than 10-20 pairs. Unfortunately its now highly likely we may see yet another bird extinction occur within the next 5-8 years should conservation efforts not improve and threats decline rapidly.

Recent studies indicate lower adult annual survival during 1995-2005 than estimates from the 1960s, as the species is suffering mortality within some inshore fisheries through intentional harvesting for human consumption and incidental bycatch. This is supported by reports, which suggest that the level of harvesting by fishers to supply food and feather markets has increased dramatically in recent years. Around the Galápagos Islands, the transition from traditional to more modern fishing techniques such as longlining may pose a threat, as there is recent evidence of an increasing propensity for the species to follow fishing vessels. Longline fishing operations along the Peruvian and Ecuadorian coasts may therefore also threaten the species.

Rates of bycatch incidence in the artisanal fishing communities off the coast of Ecuador have been estimated at 0.11 albatrosses/1,000 hooks. Analysis of birds caught as intentional and incidental take in inshore fisheries has revealed that a disproportionate number of males are taken, and this appears to be at least partly responsible for a female-biased sex ratio (1.188 females per male) in adults. The tiny population on Isla de la Plata is threatened by nest-predation by rats and cats, as well as the illegal collection of eggs and young. Movement of eggs by parents (frequently resulting in death of the egg) and mass desertions of eggs are yet to be fully explained. An oiled albatross was found on Española during 2001 too.

The species has shown susceptibility to El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, perhaps owing to increased adult mortality or increased negative interactions with fisheries under these conditions. Plastic ingestion appears to be a relatively minor threat in comparison with some other albatrosses. Increased abundance of mosquitoes during warm El Niño events has caused the mass abandonment of eggs in the past. Two hillside colonies disappeared entirely by 1994 due to dense vegetation, and overall declines in populations in other inland areas have also been attributed to habitat loss associated with vegetation regrowth since goats were eradicated in 1978. During the breeding season the species is affected by introduced mosquitoes.

If you would like to help save this species from extinction please donate to the Galapagos Conservation Organisation or contact them via their website below.

Alternately you can also contact them on Facebook here > Galapagos Conservation Trust

Thank you for reading.

Dr Jose (Director) PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M. Environmental, Botanical & Human Scientist.



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