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‘Devastating’: Albatross eggs suspected of having been stolen from Taiaroa Head

Four toroa / northern royal albatross eggs are believed to have been stolen from a guarded reserve on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, leaving conservation staff “devastated”.

The eggs were noticed missing last Thursday during routine checks at Taiaroa Head/Pukekura, where the Department of Conservation (Doc) has long managed a colony of endangered seabirds.

Coastal Otago operations manager Annie Wallace said departmental compliance officers and police are investigating, with support from the Royal Albatross Center and mana whenua.

“This is a very unusual occurrence – the colony has been managed and monitored for years, and it is strange that eggs are disappearing without a trace.”

Wallace said it was still unclear what happened and staff were gathering security camera footage and talking to people who may have relevant information.

“However, it is believed that the eggs may have been taken as there is no evidence that they were eaten by predators.”

The Toroa are nationally classified as vulnerable and threatened by climate change, fishing practices, plastic pollution and habitat loss.

They also reproduce slowly, so every egg and every chick is important to the population, Wallace said.

“They need all the help they can get, and it will be extremely disappointing if someone took those eggs,” she said.

“It’s devastating for our staff who spend countless hours caring for these birds in harsh conditions, keeping them cool on hot days, preventing fly attacks and providing extra feed for the chicks. underweight.”

Taiaroa Head is the only mainland site in the world where toroa breed, and one of the few places in the world where people can easily see them.

“It’s a privilege that people have to respect.”

Wallace said the settlement was a nature reserve and fully fenced, with entry only by permit. There was also a foreshore wildlife sanctuary along the coast which restricted access on foot and by boat.

The first chick this year to fly into Dunedin Colony was Lilibet, named for the late Queen Elizabeth II. Star of Royal Cam, the bird has set off on a huge global journey that will see her cover tens of thousands of miles over several years – a journey that will see her return to the colony at some point.

The Toroa are one of the largest seabirds in the world, with a wingspan of over 3 meters.

There are about 17,000 of these long-lived birds left, which range widely across the Southern Ocean. Most breed on several islands in the Chatham Islands.

Toroa are also protected by wildlife law and it is an offense to kill, harm, harass or disturb them.

• Anyone with information that could help locate the eggs has been asked to call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) or the non-emergency police number 105.

– By Jamie Morton, additional reporting ODT Online