Muttonbird post mortems fuel mystery
THE mystery of mass muttonbird deaths is deepening with post mortems
returning no clear reason for the phenomenon.
A survey of southern beaches finished yesterday found 47 dead
short-tailed shearwaters for every kilometre of coastline ? about 33
times the number reported in what was considered a bad year.
A similar survey last year found fewer than one dead bird for each
Deaths this time of year, at the end of the birds' annual southern
migration, are often attributed to exhaustion from the marathon flight.
Birds fly between southeastern Australia and the Pacific Arctic area
each year, a return trip of about 30,000km.
A Nature Conservation Branch spokesman said 1993 was considered a bad
year ? 1.43
deaths per kilometre.
"This year's figure is much bigger than we'd realised and very
alarming," the spokesman said.
Some of the heaviest concentrations of dead birds were at Carlton
Beach, only a short flight across Frederick Henry Bay to one of southern
Tasmania's biggest rookeries.
The spokesman said a study of some birds had been inconclusive. More
exhaustive tests would be done.
The Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment released a
statement last night: "The scale of muttonbird deaths in Tasmania, as
part of a phenomenon occurring on Australia's eastern seaboard and in
New Zealand, is now emerging."
The survey by the Australasian Seabird Group checked beaches at Marion
Bay, Eaglehawk Neck, Safety Cove, Roaring Beach and Bellerive.
The department said testing at the Mt Pleasant laboratory, near
Launceston, had found no conclusive diagnosis and further samples were
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