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"Extinct" for 150 Years, the Petrel Returns


Over the last four years, scientists have captured seven New Zealand storm petrels -- an amazing feat, considering the species was believed to be extinct for 150 years.

First rediscovered in 2003, three of the not-see-in-our-lifetime seabirds were caught over the last few months, including two caught together last month by ornithologist Dr Brent Stephenson.

Of course, the question remains: where are these birds coming from? No one knows where they are living, where they are breeding, or how many there still exist. National Geographic's Committee for Research and Exploration is working with New Zealand's Department of Conservation to try to find some answers.

DOC officer Karen Baird blames rats for the species' original disappearance, and rat-control efforts for its resurgence:

"One of the theories is that the birds survived in very low numbers on an island where rats were present, and once the rats were removed the birds have been quietly building up in numbers until they began to be noticed several years ago."

Keep your wings crossed that the petrel's population continues to increase.