Conservation Groups Want a Midway Cleanup

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) — U.S. conservation groups have renewed their call for Congress to clean up 70 lead paint-contaminated buildings at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

The American Bird Conservancy and two Hawaiian groups — the Conservation Council for Hawaii and the Hawaii Audubon Society — said the buildings have been responsible for the deaths of up to 130,000 Laysan Albatross chicks since jurisdiction of over the northern Pacific Ocean islands was transferred from the Navy to the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1996.

“Curious albatross chicks are ingesting the lead-based paint chips, which causes a variety of painful ailments and ultimately, a slow death,” said Jessica Hardesty Norris, seabird program director for ABC. “Many of the chicks on Midway exhibit a condition called ‘droopwing,’ which leaves them unable to lift their wings. Unable to fly, many die of starvation and dehydration.”

In a paper to appear in the journal Animal Conservation, Myra Finkelstein of the University of California-Santa Cruz and colleagues conclude the deaths of Laysan Albatross chicks means by 2060 there may be as many as 190,000 fewer albatrosses due to lead poisoning. By contrast, they said removing lead-based paint now could increase the population by up to 360,000 during the same time period.

The conservationists said about 70 percent of the world’s population of Laysan Albatrosses nests on Midway Atoll, located about a third of the way between Hawaii and Tokyo.

The IUCN-World Conservation Union lists the species as globally vulnerable to extinction.

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