Tragedy hits albatross race
By staff
An annual race of endangered albatrosses from Australia to South Africa has ended in tragedy with all 18 competitors dying along the 10,000km route, organisers said on Monday.

The Big Bird Race, which aims to raise international awareness about the dangers of longline fishing to the albatross and other marine life, began on May 2 from Australia's island state of Tasmania.

The race, organised by British betting company Ladbrokes, the Conservation Foundation and the Tasmanian government, allows punters to bet on which bird makes it across the Southern Ocean first with funds donated to marine conservation efforts.

Satellite transmitters were used to track 18 juvenile albatrosses on this year's annual migration.

But one-by-one the birds all disappeared in what conservation biologist Tim Nevard, the race coordinator, called a tragic warning for the fragile breed.

“What it shows is what kind of a knife edge these birds are poised on,” Nevard told the Australian domestic news agency AAP.

“Any additional pressure put on these birds could well tip them over the edge into extinction.”

Researchers expect some deaths during the three-month crossing of the southern ocean, but last year just three of 20 birds failing to finish the migration.

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