Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Race With All Contestants Losing

This has been a race that unfortunately has turned into the worst nightmare for the organizers.

Some of the sponsors were celebrities like Sir David Attenborough, singer Olivia Newton-John, Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel, and talk show host Michael Parkinson.

The race?

It was an albatross race comprising 17 birds that would be tracked electronically on their annual migration from Australia to Africa. The Big Bird Race was for the purpose of raising awareness of the plight of the albatross, which has been the most threatened of all seabirds.

Albatross fall victims to long line fishing, the method of catching tuna. Tuna has a lucractive market in Japan, with some tuna costing $100,000 each. The lines have thousands of sharp baited hooks and are attached to moving boats. Unfortunately the baits on those hooks attract the birds. Once hooked, the albatross drowned as they are dragged underwater.

Long tuna lines cause the highest cause of mortality among the albatross. Other species such as petrels, shearwater and muttonbirds are also affected.

Back to the race - the 9656-kilometre path of the albatrosses across the Indian Ocean was tracked on the internet with people able to place bets to raise much-needed funds for their preservation. But none of the birds arrived at their destination. The organizers lost contact with them somewhere off the West Australian coast, indicating that they have probably perished, all 17 of them.

The suspicion is that they have all fallen prey to the tuna boats again. Another possibility is that the birds may have crashed into a fishing boat. The albatross sleep on the wing at night and fly low. This way, they could run into the side of boats or even tankers and break their necks, which would be just as disastrous as being drowned by the tuna hooks.

What’s that word for a horse that doesn’t compete as expected or planned, or has been witdrawn? Scratched?

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