Heir to the British throne, Prince Charles is visiting New Zealand. He enjoyed his greeting at the Royal Albatross Centre and went on to make an impassioned plea for the preservation of the birds he used to watch flying for days on end whilst he was at sea with the Royal Navy.
Fulfilling a lifelong ambition, Prince Charles crouched within three feet of a mother and chick in a nest at the bird sanctuary at Taiaroa Head.
He suggested that if this majestic member of the albatross family were allowed to become extinct, “we would sacrifice any claim whatsoever to call ourselves civilised beings.”
“Will it take the complete dodo-like disappearance of this noble creature to bring us to our sense?” asked the heir to the British throne.
The migratory birds have a wingspan of three metres and can swoop at speeds of up to 114kph, but they are threatened by a loss of habitat and long line fishing, which is killing 100,000 a year.
The albatross centre on the windswept south island headland is the only mainland breeding colony in the world and human contact with the birds is limited.
An “ecstatic” prince spent 10 minutes at one of the four nests at Taiaroa Head observing a 20-year-old female Northern Royal Albatross with her month-old chick.
After learning to fly, albatross chicks spend five years soaring over the world, resting only on water and will eventually settle with a partner for life.