Migration and dispersal can expose wildlife to threats in different parts of their range, particularly for localized anthropogenic threats. Wildlife exposure to metal contaminants may correlate with local anthropogenic emissions. Feather mercury concentrations of adult and juvenile Lesser Frigatebirds (Fregata ariel) and Great Frigatebirds (F. minor) were determined for individuals breeding in the eastern Indian Ocean. Low mercury concentration in juveniles relative to adults, higher mercury concentration in adult females than adult males, and a trend for Lesser Frigatebirds to have higher mercury concentration than Great Frigatebirds implicate non-breeding ground exposure as the major influence on mercury burden. Aspects of foraging ecology are congruent with high exposure occurring in inshore waters of the non-breeding range, particularly in the South China Sea. These findings highlight the need for tighter mercury emission regulations in southeast Asia to minimise the potential threat to frigatebirds and other species dependent on marine resources including humans.
Keywords: Artisanal small-scale mining; Bioindicator; Foraging ecology; Hg; Seabirds; Southeast Asia.
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