Mercury levels rapidly rising in endangered ivory gulls: biologist

Global News

A biologist is suggesting rapidly rising rates of mercury contamination may be behind the dramatic population drop of an endangered Arctic gull.

“If nothing changes, we won’t have ivory gulls in Canada,” said Alex Bond, whose paper was published this week by the British Royal Society.

Populations of the bird, which in North America only breeds in Canada, have fallen by 80 per cent since the 1980s and the small white scavenger is down to about 500 breeding pairs. Ivory gulls live only in the High Arctic, where they prey along the edge of sea ice and feed off remains from polar bear kills.

That diet may be the problem, suspects Bond, who conducted his research while he was based at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. He is now the director of conservation science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the United Kingdom.


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