Where to see them — and how to help.
Climate change is threatening some key New Zealand residents, and there are only a few ways to help out.
Researchers have found that the yellow-eyed penguins of New Zealand's Otago Peninsula, on the South Island, may go extinct by the year 2060. In a published study in PeerJ, researchers have predicted — due to the penguins declining breeding success and rising ocean temperatures — the species is in need of strong conservation efforts to survive climate change.
The bird was already classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and it is a key tourism attraction for New Zealand. The population has been drastically decreasing since 2013, when more than 60 adult penguins died in one year.
“Any further losses of Yellow-eyed penguins will bring forward the date of their local extinction,” said lead study author Dr. Thomas Mattern, of the University of Otago. The study also suggests that poor adult survival rates could accelerate the species extinction even further.
But climate change only accounts for part of why these penguins are disappearing: The study cannot account for human impact such as local fisheries. Penguins often get caught in nets and are poisoned by unknown toxins in their environment.
“Unlike climate change, these factors could be managed on a regional scale,” Mattern said.
Another researcher, Phil Seddon, director of wildlife management at the University of Otago, says the project would need more time to study the data to see what is happening to the species, but unfortunately, it is time the species cannot afford.
“Without immediate, bold and effective conservation measures we will lose these penguins from our coasts within our lifetime,” the authors write in the study.
Because penguins are easily disturbed, there are several public viewing hides in New Zealand, including Bushy Beach, Katiki Point and Nugget Point Reserve.
More information on conservation and where to see penguins can be found on the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust website.