New Zealand’s Iconic Yellow-Eyed Penguin Is On The Brink Of Extinction

Posted on April 14th 2018

Penguins Only Have Bitter And Salty Taste Receptors

The yellow-eyed penguin is one of the most endangered penguin species on the planet, so it is deeply concerning that nearly half of its breeding population has disappeared in one part of New Zealand. Many conservationists believe the reason for the disappearance is commercial fishing. This species of penguin lives on the South Island of New Zealand and some sub Antarctic islands. Presently there are between 3,200 to 3,600 wild yellow-eyed penguins, down from 7,000 in 2000.

Alarming discovery

New Zealand’s department of conservation recently surveyed the island sanctuary of Whenua Hou and were alarmed when they discovered that nearly half the island’s breeding population of the penguin species had simply vanished. Elsewhere around the country, the species population is at the lowest level in 27 years. Kevin Hague, a noted conservationist says that the island used to be free of predators, so the evidence suggests that the birds are being caught in the nets of commercial fishing trawlers and subsequently drown. Only 3 per cent of commercial trawlers fishing in the region have observers onboard to report bycatch deaths.

Commercial fishing is probably to blame

According to Mr Hague, in previous years, the reason for population declines were disease and high temperatures causing death on land. This year he believes that most deaths take place out at sea. He adds that there is an active set net fishery operating within the penguins’ sanctuary in Whenua Hou and the indicators suggest that nearly half of the population of this island has been caught by one of these nets and drowned.

Heading towards extinction

Last year there were 24 recorded nests on Whenua Hou. This year the conservationists could only find 14. Whenua Hou is not the only island in New Zealand where numbers have fallen. There have been population declines in other parts of the South Island as well. Researchers rather unsurprisingly are worried that this iconic species of penguin for New Zealanders, whose image appears on the NZ$5 note is heading towards extinction. Every effort is being made by conservation groups to save the species, but there are multiple threats ranging from fishing nets, dogs, disease and climate change.

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