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Last Updated: Monday, 2 May 2005, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Punters bet on an albatross race
An albatross, PA
Up to 19 species of albatross are threatened with extinction
Punters around the world have been placing their bets on an usual form of racing - an albatross migration across the Indian Ocean.

The race follows 17 albatrosses on their journey from Tasmania to South Africa, 9,600km (6,000 miles) away.

The annual Big Bird Race is intended to highlight the dangers of long-line fishing to the lives of seabirds.

Each bird has been sponsored by a celebrity and all the money raised will be donated to charity.

The race, organised by UK betting company Ladbrokes, allows punters to bet on which bird will arrive in South Africa first.

Each albatross has been electronically tagged, so its progress can be monitored.

Former world snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan's bird, Rocket, is reported to have taken an early lead.

Other contenders, such as Parkie - which has been sponsored by British TV presenter Michael Parkinson - as well as birds backed by Australian singer Olivia Newton John and naturalist Sir David Attenborough are not far behind.

Dangerous journey

The annual albatross migration is fraught with dangers, and last year just one of the tagged birds, named Aphrodite and sponsored by model Jerry Hall, made it to African territorial waters.

Long-line fishing, in which thousands of hooks are dragged on a line stretching up to 120km (75 miles) long, kills more than 300,000 seabirds every year.

Scientists say up to 19 species of albatross are currently under threat of extinction.

Besides making money for charity and raising awareness about the plight of the birds, the race also allows researchers to learn more about albatross migratory patterns.

A marine conservation officer for the Tasmanian government, Rachel Alderman, said that by tracking the birds, scientists hoped to find new ways to protect them.

"Learning where the birds are going and where the important bird areas are allows us to identify what threats they are facing," she told ABC News.

Satellites track albatross flight
10 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Albatrosses to benefit from pact
17 Nov 03 |  Science/Nature
Albatrosses face growing peril
06 Sep 03 |  Science/Nature
Hopes rise for albatrosses
08 May 03 |  Science/Nature


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