• The northern royal albatross chick of Taiaroa Head (Source: New Zealand Department of Conservation) (New Zealand Department of Conservation)Source: New Zealand Department of Conservation
Wildlife conservation in the era of social media uses online tools to educate, and to spread the cute far and wide.
By
Genevieve Dwyer

28 Jan 2016 - 2:56 PM  UPDATED 28 Jan 2016 - 2:56 PM

The plight of a threatened New Zealand royal albatross species is gaining vital renewed attention thanks to a 24-hour wildlife webcam recording a newborn chick’s first few months of life.

As part of an initiative by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) a webcam known as “royal cam” has been set up at remote Taiaroa Head on Otago Peninsula. It's trained on the nest of a week-old royal albatross chick and its parents. The species is also called toroa - they're the largest seabirds in the world, and breed exclusively in New Zealand waters.

Streaming to Youtube round-the-clock, the camera went live on Australia Day and is accessible to anyone, giving viewers unprecedented access into the seldom seen life of these endangered birds, throughout the chick’s first eight months of life.

"Few people in the world have the chance to get this close to a nesting albatross chick," DOC's threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki said at Tuesday’s launch of the webcam.

"It's amazing to look right into the nest to see the chick's new beginning."

Wildlife enthusiasts, rangers and patient Youtube viewers have taken it upon themselves to capture some of the more adorable or hilarious moments of the little Albatross family, sharing them to social media under the hashtag #royalcam.

At the moment the little chick is mainly hidden under its parents, who take turns sitting on it to keep it warm. As it grows though, the parents will spend more time standing over it, and the little chick will be more visible in the nest. Check out the feed below to see what intimate moments you might peer in on:

If viewing at night time, you’ll have to look close though, as the DOC advises there is no artificial light source - to ensure minimum impact on the birds’ natural life.

For those worried about disruption to the albatross' normal life, the DOC assures its website visitors that the "camera is silent and situated a few metres away from the nest. The birds have not paid any attention to its' presence.”

“As the chick grows we will need to ensure the camera is 'chick proof' as they do wander away from the nest and are curious.”

Below is another curious chick that was captured on film checking out another camera at the Royal Albatross Centre.

Wildlife webcams play a vital role in conservation, not just because they allow rangers and scientists to monitor the habits of endangered species such as the royal albatross, but because in the age of Youtube celebrities they allow students and members of the general public to glimpse a side of the natural world they’d never get to see otherwise.

This also helps conservationists raise awareness of the threats that the species face. For example, the Otago Peninsula Trust are working with the DOC to protect the chicks from the heat this summer, with viewers being encouraged to help the trust in it’s mission.