Migrating sea birds offer fundraising flutter

Dominic Wood

Professor David Bellamy has devised a fundraising scheme for conservation charities out of the annual 6,000-mile migration of the Tasmanian Shy Albatross to Southern Africa.

The Ladbrokes.com Big Bird Race, which will chart the progress of 15 electronically-tagged birds, starts on 29 March and lasts until late summer.

The initiative is aiming to raise money from losing bets to fund sea-bird conservation projects. It also wants to draw attention to the perils of migration.

Bellamy, who co-founded the Conservation Foundation charity, fostered the idea with Tim Nevard, its scientific adviser.

"The albatross is the most beautiful and iconic bird in the world," said Bellamy. "But its existence is under extreme threat as hundreds of thousands face a gruesome death from badly executed long-line fishing practices every year."

Organisers hope that race publicity will persuade countries to ratify the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. This contains an accepted set of migration measures to reduce bird deaths such as weighting fishing lines and flying bird-scaring lines.

In the race, the tagged birds will be named to encourage betting, and punters will be able to follow their progress online via satellite.

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