Albatross Race Update

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Albatross Race Update
From: knightl <>
Date: Sun, 2 May 2004 12:55:34 +1000

Endangered albatrosses on a wing and a punt
By Julia Medew
May 2, 2004

It might be her long streamlined legs or the strong westerly wind beneath her wings. Whatever it is, an extremely fit and calm Aphrodite, backed by American model Jerry Hall, has taken a strong lead in the world's first albatross steeplechase.

In what is being billed as "the ultimate flutter", 18 juvenile Tasmanian shy albatrosses have been saddled with electronic transmitters, or "jockeys", and set to the skies to complete their migration from Tasmania to South Africa.

The project, which aims to raise awareness of the endangered birds, will provide important information about how many are being killed by long-line fishing. With a host of celebrities backing the birds, the first to reach the Cape of Good Hope by August 5 will pay out.

And while winnings will be paid to the punters, the revenue, expected to amount to millions of dollars, will be directed to conservation of the birds.

The event's creator, Tim Nevard, from the British-based Conservation Foundation, said the world's biggest bookmaker, Ladbrokes, and the Tasmanian Government had teamed up to launch the race.

But while several birds have already powered through the Great Australian Bight, confidence issues and a rare case of disorientation have left others lagging behind.

"One bird, Xanadu, really threw us out when she started flying east before returning back to the island," Mr Nevard said.

An interactive map tracking the progress of the birds and a form guide is available to punters on the Ladbrokes website. Warren Lush, of, said betting had been overwhelming in the first week, with bookies already taking tens of thousands of dollars from across the world. "The biggest bet laid so far has been $6000, with the average bet sitting at about $50," he said.

With speculation suggesting second-placed Daniphobouska may be a "bolter", the favourites are Aphrodite and Sir David Attenborough's bird, Ocean Spirit. While sharks and extreme weather conditions are considered natural obstacles for the birds, around 30,000 sea birds die from long-line fishing nets each year.

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