DUNEDIN – Tourists from all over the world jostle for position along the windows of the observatory, eager to glimpse the nesting royal albatross chicks just a few dozen metres away.

Four chicks, plump and fluffy, sit oblivious to the sensation they have caused.

For many of those visiting the Royal Albatross Centre, this is as close as they will ever get to these majestic birds; as the world’s only mainland albatross colony, the centre has become the crown jewel in Dunedin’s tourism industry.

But despite the acclaim and media attention, 2018 has been a difficult year for the colony – of the 29 fertile eggs that were laid only 16 hatched. The statistics, and the swirling mix of events that have endangered the colony, have the full attention of the Department of Conservation (DOC).

The chicks in the colony are under constant observation.

Nicola Toki, DOC’s Threatened Species Ambassador, explained the stakes in a February press release following the death of a chick attacked by its mother. The chick was just over a month old and its death has further highlighted the fragility of the colony’s situation.

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