Investigation launched after albatross eggs disappear from Otago’s Taiaroa Head colony

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DOC Coastal Otago operations manager Annie Wallace said it was strange for eggs to disappear without a trace, given that the colony had been managed and monitored for years.
Photo: Photo by Alan Wright, courtesy of Department of Conservation.

An investigation is underway into the disappearance of four northern royal albatross eggs from a colony near Dunedin.

The eggs were found to be missing from the Taiaroa Head colony during routine checks on Thursday morning.

CCTV footage is being collected as Department of Conservation (DOC) compliance officers and police investigate the missing eggs.

There are no signs that they have been eaten by predators.

DOC Coastal Otago operations manager Annie Wallace said it was strange for eggs to disappear without a trace, given that the colony had been managed and monitored for years.

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“It is still unclear what happened and we are collecting CCTV footage and talking to people who may have relevant information.”

It was devastating because toroa is nationally vulnerable, threatened by climate change and slow to reproduce, she said.

“They need all the help they can get, and it will be hugely disappointing if someone took these eggs.

“This is devastating to our staff who spend countless hours caring for these birds in challenging conditions, keeping them cool on hot days, making efforts to prevent flystriking and providing supplemental feeds to underweight chicks.”

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Te Poāri, chairman of Pukekura’s management group, Nadia Wesley-Smith, said the disappearance of toroa eggs from Pukekura was very worrying.

Not only was it considered a disturbance to the mauri and mana of the headland, but also has a devastating impact on the Toroa people and conservation efforts, she said.

Te Rūnanga o Ōtakou chairman Rachel Wesley said the unexplained disappearance was the main concern.

The hapū from Ōtākou had a close relationship with the toroa in Pukekura, she said.

“Due to Toroa’s slow breeding cycle and vulnerable status, any loss of eggs or chicks from natural causes is disappointing, but the unexplained nature of this particular incident, especially with the suggestion that it could be humans who are responsible, is absolutely devastating. .

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“I hope that answers to their whereabouts will be found soon and that the eggs of this important taoka species still remain viable.”

Taiaroa Head is the only mainland site in the world where toroa breeds. It is a fully fenced nature reserve and access is only possible with a permit.

Anyone with information is requested to call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) or the police non-emergency number 105.

Toroa is protected by the Wildlife Act, it is a crime to kill, injure, harass or disturb them.