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Context: Rameswaram and adjoining islets of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park on the Adam’s Bridge (Ram Setu) are known for their unique marine ecosystem. But the region grabbed the attention of international researchers as Asia’s first sighting of Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrate), a species native to the Antarctic seas, was recorded here.
- The location where the Albatross was spotted is part of the Palk Bay and near the Gulf of Mannar, an ‘Important Bird Area’ on India’s southeast coast.
- As the nearest recorded site of the bird is around 5,000 km away from Rameswaram, the researchers feel a change in atmospheric pressure could have been among the reasons for the Albatross to land on an Indian shore.
- The Light-mantled Albatross, with broad pelagic habits, maintains a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Ocean.
- It breeds on several sub-Antarctic islands, such as Macquarie Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands (Australia), South Georgia Island (British Overseas Territory), Prince Edward Islands (South Africa), Iles Kerguelen and Iles Crozet (France), and Auckland, Campbell, and Antipodes Islands (New Zealand).
- The species forage over cold Antarctic waters as far south as the pack ice in summer.
- Listed as a ‘Near Threatened’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Light-mantled Albatross has a worldwide population of 21,600 breeding pairs, according to an estimate in 1998.