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Name needed for international albatross star


Sharyn and chick

Our most watched Royal Cam albatross star needs a name before she takes flight on her first overseas journey this spring.

The Department of Conservation’s annual competition to name the live-streamed toroa/northern royal albatross chick at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head starts today.

‘Celebrating connections’ is the theme for this year’s naming, fitting for a chick that has entranced a record audience around the globe since hatching on 31 January, says DOC Biodiversity Ranger Sharyn Broni.

“We’ve had over 1.6 million views on our Royal Cam live stream since December, including through Cornell University’s You Tube Channel. The COVID-19 lockdown also saw a big jump in people watching and commenting.”

People from 51 countries have watched this feisty chick around the clock as she’s been cared for by her devoted parents and grown from a round fluff ball to a nine-kilogram gangly adolescent, says Sharyn Broni.

“Viewers have been really engaged with lots making comments. The chick’s dad went missing for over a month and viewers were very worried. Luckily, he finally returned, slightly injured, to resume feeding the chick and viewers were overjoyed.”

Once the chick fledges in September, she will take to the skies and fly 9000 km across the Pacific Ocean to feed near South America. It will be four years before she returns to the Southern Hemisphere’s only mainland albatross colony at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head to breed.

Like the Royal Cam stars before her, this chick will be an ambassador for her kind, which face a range of threats and challenges including impacts from fishing and plastic and the growing effects of climate change on ocean temperatures and feeding grounds.

In December last year, the Royal Cam live stream joined New York’s Cornell University/Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s global network of live bird cameras, giving 20 million annual viewers a chance to learn more about the plight of albatross.

The new night vision camera has allowed international viewers to tune in at any time and see nocturnal activity such as the kekeno/baby New Zealand fur seal that wandered past the nest one night. In the last six months there has been a staggering 388,000 hours of albatross live stream viewed, which is 16,000 days or 45 years’ worth.

The competition is run with the support of Te Poāri a Pukekura and the Otago Peninsula Trust’s Royal Albatross Centre.

The prize includes a personalised virtual tour of the albatross colony and a framed photo of the chick, avoiding any need for travel and opening it up to overseas fans.

People can learn more about the week-long Royal Cam competition and enter on our website.

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