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Locals rally, but can’t save hurt albatross

A group of locals stood guard near an injured albatross until help arrived on Wairarapa’s south coast earlier this week.

The rare bird, thought to come from the Bounty Islands, could not be saved due to a severely broken leg and an injured eye.

The Salvin’s mollymawk, or toroa, was found early on Tuesday morning at a small settlement on Wairarapa’s south coast.

Local kaitiaki Luke Tipoki said he spotted the bird on the ground, about 50m from Lake Ferry Hotel, as he headed to work.

“Actually, it’s pretty rare to see an albatross,” he said.

The conservation status of this species was moved from nationally vulnerable to nationally critical in 2013.

Tipoki estimated the albatross had a wingspan of about a metre.

He called the Department of Conservation [DOC] and posted a warning notice to local dog owners on Facebook.

Then a group of locals waited with the bird to keep it safe until the DOC rangers arrived.

“It was probably only about 10 metres away from the road. I was surprised no one else had seen it,” Tipoki said.

“It was sad it was injured. You don’t get many opportunities to come that close to such a taonga.”

Bonnie Feng, DOC ranger biodiversity, praised the group for helping.

“The bird was a Salvin’s mollymawk [a species of albatross], which we believe came from the Bounty Islands.”

It’s not known how the bird sustained its injury.

DOC staff transported the injured bird to Wildbase veterinary hospital in Palmerston North.

Dr Megan Jolly, a Wildbase senior practising veterinarian, said the bird couldn’t survive its injuries.

“Unfortunately, it had a severely broken leg with a loss of nerve and blood supply to the leg beyond the fracture, so the leg was not salvageable.

“Despite spending the majority of their time on the open ocean, albatross do need functional legs to get airborne [by running across the surface of the water] and when they come to land for breeding.”

Jolly said the bird also had a chronic eye injury that might have contributed to the accident that caused its broken leg.

Staff suspected it would have been blind in its left eye.

“However, primarily the leg injury was why it was euthanised,” she said.

“We’ve had a lot of success in recent years with getting large seabirds back to the wild, but sadly not this time.”

Tipoki said he and the others at Lake Ferry are sad at the outcome but glad they could help.

“I’m just happy we found it before any dogs or other predators did and saved its dignity. We’re all sad it wasn’t a happier outcome,” he said.

Terry Te Maari, who recently retired after being a trustee at nearby Kohunui Marae for about 20 years, praised the team who cared for the bird.

“We don’t see albatrosses here very often. They did very well to look after it until the DOC rangers arrived.

“It’s something we would all do as a matter of course.”

-NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded
through NZ On Air

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