Albatross

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Albatross

This stamp issue, produced in association with the World Wild Life Fund For Nature (WWF), depicts the Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) which was only widely recognised as a full species in 1998.  WWF is one of the world’s leading conservation organisations working towards conservation and sustainability.

There are three breeding species of Albatross within the Tristan Group. The Tristan Albatross is considered the most endangered.  Originally thought to be a sub-species of the Wandering Albatross, it is practically indistinguishable from that bird at sea, but the Tristan Albatross is smaller and has a slightly darker back with a wing span of some 3 metres.  It never attains the full white plumage of the Wandering Albatross and its bill is about 25mm shorter.  Due to the difficulty in distinguishing them from the Wandering Albatrosses, their distribution at sea is not fully known, but satellite tracking has shown that they forage widely in the South Atlantic and feed mainly on fish and cephalopods.  The Tristan Albatross is endemic to the Tristan da Cunha Group and most are found on Gough Island, indeed the majority of the world’s population nest on Gough, which has around 1,500 pairs.

Originally all Albatrosses in Tristan da Cunha were threatened by introduced species, namely rats, cats and pigs but these have now been removed from breeding islands.  This, however, has resulted in a population explosion in mice. Even though Albatross chicks are huge when compared to mice, they do not know how to defend themselves and are becoming regular victims of mouse attacks.  The main threat to the Tristan Albatross is considered to be long line fishing and mice and in the past 50 years the population has decreased by some 25%.

Gough Island itself is a World Heritage Site and is possibly the most important seabird island in the world. The RSPB estimates that there are more than 1 million mice on Gough and is investigating whether the eradication of these mice is likely to be successful. Adult birds return to the island in November and December and lay their eggs in January.  Adult chicks can take up to a year to fledge and immature birds begin returning to breed at between 3 to 7 years later.  They live up to 20 years although the oldest recorded bird was at least 38 years old.

The UK Ratification of the Albatross and Petrel Agreement was extended to Tristan da Cunha in April 2006. The single commercial Fishery within Tristan Waters (fishing Tristan Rock Lobster) has been awarded the Marine Stewardship Council Certificate and is regarded as seabird friendly.

Gough Island is a small but mountainous volcanic island with its highest peak rising to nearly 3,000 feet.  The coastline is rugged and the only inhabitants are personnel stationed at the South African Weather Station.  Although first discovered by Goncalo Alvarez in the 17th Century, the Island was rediscovered in the 18th Century and renamed Gough after Captain Gough of the Richmond.  Due to its flora and fauna having been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, there is no access for tourists or even crew members from passing yachts.

The set consists of 4 stamps depicting the Tristan Albatross with values 35p, 45p, 70p and £1.10p.  In addition to the set there is a souvenir sheet showing a displaying Albatross (£3) and a sheetlet of 16 (4 sets in staggered format) with a face value of £10.40p.  The stamps in the sheetlet ‘bleed off’ at the edge.

Technical details:

Designer:             Andrew Robinson        
Printer:             Cartor Security Printing        
Process:             Lithography      
Stamp size:             42 x 28mm
S/S size             94 x 64mm
S/S stamp size:             48 x 30mm
Perforation:             13 ¼ x 13 ½ per 2cms (S/S stamp 13 ¼ per 2cms)  
Stamp Layout:             10
Sheetlet layout            16 (4x4)      
Release date:             28 January, 2013      
Production Co-ordination:             Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd

The WWF initials and Panda device © 1986 WWF, with the authorisation of WWF, registered Trademark owner.