1 Feb 2020

Royal albatross egg finally hatches

7:33 am on 1 February 2020

The newest Department of Conservation's (DOC) royal albatross cam chick has hatched on the Otago peninsula.

The first albatross back this season is an 8-year-old male which arrived on Sunday.

An albatross on the Otago peninsula. Photo: Supplied / Otago Peninsula Trust

Thousands of people have been tuning in to the live stream to watch the parents care for the egg at the northern royal albatross colony over the past several months.

A partnership between DOC and Cornell University's laboratory of ornithology means the stream is shared internationally and cameras now include panning and night vision.

The laboratory's project leader Charles Eldermire said the live stream offered a glimpse at a species that spends most of its life flying or on the water.

"We're so consumed with borders, living in our own bubbles, living in our electronic worlds sometimes, that just having the opportunity to peek in on the life of a wild animal that crosses entire hemispheres with no idea that boundaries exist and has been doing this for millions of years is a very powerful symbol to be allowing people to have access to," Eldermire said.

Since streaming was shared globally just over a month ago, Eldermire said viewership numbers had doubled compared to past years.

This is during incubation, which is typically one of the lowest viewership months.

Now that the hatched chick has been returned to its nest, that's expected to increase, he said.

"The main challenges facing these northern royal albatross really are a summary of many of the challenges faced by almost any species across the world.

"Climate change is driving changes to the ocean and those changes can effect the food supply for these birds making it harder for them to find or having to fly further. It's going to change ocean levels, most sea birds nest almost at the level of the ocean or only a metre or so above. With sea level rise, some of the most important sea bird nesting area known to humankind are going to disappear probably in the next 50 to 100 years."

As the chick grows and fledges in front of a captivated online crowd, Charles Eldermire hoped it would encourage more people to be inspired and to think about conservation.