The recent 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan delivered mass destruction across the Japanese mainland and notably the capital Tokyo. The tsunami claimed many lives of the population residing on the coast and caused millions of pounds worth of damaged.
A recent BBC (2011a) news story has highlighted that humans were not the only species of animal affected by this natural disaster. Thousands of albatrosses were killed when the destructive waves hit a wildlife sanctuary north-west of Hawaii. The sanctuary based on the Midway Island, which is the home of the vulnerable Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), was first created after US Naval Air facility was shut down in 1993.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service reported that 1,000 adult and adolescent Laysan albatross were killed when the 1.5metre high waves hit the National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Along with the 1,000 adults approximately tens of thousands of chicks were killed when nearly 60% of the island was covered by the huge waves.
The Laysan albatross weren’t the only species of animals that was damaged by the effects of the tsunami. The population of Bonin petrels (Pterodroma hypoleuca) took a damaging blow when they were buried alive. Bonin petrels are ground nesting so live in burrows underground so scientists are uncertain about how many were affected. Scientists at the NWR were hoping that they were out foraging for food as they feed at night when the tsunami’s waves washed over the island at dawn (Yahoo, 2011). The impact of the tsunami on other species such as the Laysan ducks and monk seals are currently unknown by wildlife conservationists (BBC, 2011a).
Along the survivors of the killer waves was a 60 year old Laysan albatross named Wisdom who recently hit the news headlines as the ‘Oldest bird in the US’ after she was found mothering a chick (NYTimes, 2011). The US Geological Survey (USGS) first ring tagged Wisdom in 1956 when she was incubating an egg. It is estimated that over the past 54 years she has mothered over 30-35 chicks (BBC, 2011b).
This demonstrations that natural disasters not only damage the human race but they also put other species, which are already close to being endangered, even closer to extinction.
BBC. 2011a. Japan tsunami: Thousands of seabirds killed near Hawaii. BBC News.
BBC. 2011b. ‘Oldest bird in US’ raises chick. BBC News.
NYTimes. 2011. Albatross Is a Mother at 60. The New York Times.
Yahoo. 2011. Tsunami killed thousands of seabirds at Midway. Yahoo News.