And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariners’ hollo!
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Japanese TV news is notoriously poor. One is lucky to catch a genuine news item in between the sports, weather, reports about food and fashion, and celebrity gossip.
Fortunately, I happened to be paying attention when an item about the short tailed albatross breeding program came up. A quick internet search came up with a couple of relevant recent articles – bless the Japan Times – so sit back and enjoy.
Conservationists aim to nurture population of endangered albatross on Torishima Island
Feb 18, 2015
On uninhabited Torishima Island, in the Pacific Ocean about 600 km south of Tokyo, every day is hard physical work for the Environment Ministry officials trying to conserve an endangered albatross population.
Ranger Koji Nitta, 54, joins researchers in traveling to the island in the Izu Island chain every summer after albatrosses have bred and departed on their annual journey to the North Pacific.
His job is to cut down the shrubs that could obstruct the birds when taking off, and place sandbags around their breeding ground to keep mud out.
“What we do is to support their breeding, and that’s the only thing humans can do,” Nitta said.
“It’s a series of simple tasks,” he said. “Our conservation work is substantially physical work.”
Some call albatrosses “queens of the sea” because of their white feathers and ability to fly for hours without flapping their wings.
Hundreds of thousands are believed to have lived on islands in the Northwest Pacific, but over-hunting for their feathers pushed them to the verge of extinction. Conservation efforts, however, have helped the population to recover to an estimated 3,500.
In Japanese, albatrosses are known as “aho dori” (stupid bird), a moniker that belies their true nature.
“Albatrosses are very cautious,” Nitta said, noting that they are clever enough to be wary of humans. “They are absolutely not ‘aho.’ “
In an effort to further boost the wild population, Nitta is also creating a new breeding site on Muko Island on the Ogasawara Islands, further south. The team tries to attract the birds by deploying static albatross decoys and playing a recording of their cries.
Last spring, a suspected albatross chick was recorded on a neighboring island in the first sign of their successful nesting in the Ogasawara chain.
Nitta grew up in Azumino, a mountainous area in Nagano Prefecture.
He undertook a significant career change after years serving with Japan National Railways. His interest in climbing led to a job as a park ranger at the ministry, Nitta said. He joined it in 2007.
Rare albatross found breeding in Ogasawara Islands
Mar 27, 2015
The endangered short-tailed albatross is breeding in the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo for the first time since the end of the war.
The finding on Nakodo Island, announced Thursday by the Environment Ministry, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, is considered significant for a species that once faced the threat of extinction.
The DNA of a feather from a baby bird found on the island last May has been confirmed to come from a pair of albatrosses on the island.
Previously, the seabird’s breeding areas in Japan had been thought to be confined only to Torishima Island in the Izu chain, also in the Pacific, and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The Ogasawaras used to be a habitat for tens of thousands of the seabirds and a major albatross breeding site, but it disappeared in the 1930s due to overhunting caused by demand for its feathers.
The institute transferred 70 young birds from Torishima Island to Muko Island in the Ogasawara chain from 2008 to 2012 to reintroduce the species. The 6-year-old female of the pair that produced the chick whose feather was tested is one of the birds that was transferred during that period, they said.
You can find more about Operation Decoy at this website.