They′re off - the world′s first albatross race has been launched with celebrities, bookmakers and ecologists joining forces to save the mighty seabird from extinction.
Punters seeking a flutter with a difference can pick the fittest and fastest albatross in a field of 18 migrating from Australia to South Africa.
But the journey could be deadly for the bird immortalised by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his "Ancient Mariner" epic poem.
Up to 300,000 albatrosses are killed every year by longline fishermen. Thousands of baited hooks dragged behind boats drown the birds by dragging them for miles underwater.
All 18 Tasmanian Shy Albatrosses have been saddled up with their very own electronic jockeys -- specially fitted satellite transmitters that will enable scientists and gamblers to plot their migration.
The unique Ladbrokes.com Big Bird race which is expected to last until early August.
"This is a race for survival where the wildlife of the world benefits no matter what the outcome," said a spokesman for the British bookmakers.
The Big Bird race was the brainchild of conservationist Tim Nevard, who is based in Queensland, Australia.
By identifying where the birds fly and where the biggest threat from long-lining is, ecologists plan to apply international pressure so the hazard can be eliminated.
Scientists hope the publicity will encourage more countries to sign the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).
Ha! Fleetwood has it in the bag! if indeed she hasn't actually been eaten by a shark already in which case I'm rooting for the shark