A Te Papa curator in Ecuador

Te Papa’s curator of terrestrial vertebrates Colin Miskelly is in Guayaquil as the expert advisor to the New Zealand delegation at the 6th ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) meeting, and has provided this report.

Waved albatross adult brooding a small chick on Isla de la Plata, Ecuador, on 27 August 2011. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

The ACAP meeting has been a great opportunity to meet with albatross researchers and conservation workers from around the globe, which has direct relevance to two Te Papa events in the pipeline. The first is a proposed major exhibition on albatrosses, which is in the planning stages. The albatross research community not only provide the exciting new stories, but crucially may provide ways to obtain specimens that could be used to tell the stories. The days of collecting live bird specimens for exhibitions are long over both in New Zealand and much of the world, and so museums are often reliant on field researchers and wildlife managers to provide freshly dead specimens that they may find in the course of their work.

Te Papa will also be hosting the 5th International Albatross and Petrel Conference in August 2012 (organised by NIWA staff). Many of the ACAP delegates are hoping to come, and have been seeking information from the New Zealand delegates about both the conference and other opportunities while they are in the country.

Ten of us organised a one-day field trip to Isla de la Plata during a break in the meeting. This was a long way to travel in a day – 3 hours driving each way to Puerto Lopez, and over 2 hours each way in a boat out to the island. But it was worth it for the privilege of seeing one of the world’s most endangered albatrosses – a single waved albatross brooding its small chick. Most of the world’s waved albatross population breeds on Hood Island in the Galapagos Islands, but a few pairs breed on Isla de la Plata, which is sometimes referred to as the poor man’s Galapagos.

Guayaquil is a large city of about 2 million people, but still has some interesting wildlife near the city centre. From the windows of the fourth floor meeting room we could see large iguanas in the canopy of the trees in a central city park. These impressive beasts are green iguanas, and go by the easy-to-remember scientific name Iguana iguana.

Green iguana in Guayaquil city park, August 2011. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

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