One of New Zealand’s iconic species, the yellow-eyed penguin or hoiho, could disappear from the mainland within decades unless there is urgent action taken to protect the remaining population.
Researchers from the University of Otago sounded the alarm after modelling suggested the South Island population could become locally extinct by 2060. But even that estimate may be optimistic, as the models did not take into account a massive die off in 2013, which killed 60 birds, and consecutive poor breeding seasons since.
”If we don’t figure out how we can avoid these mass mortality events, then my gut feeling tells me that the yellow-eyed penguins will be gone by a lot sooner than 2060; so 2040 or 2050,” lead researcher Dr Thomas Mattern told the Otago Daily Times.
Their findings, published overnight in PeerJ, predicted that the penguins’ breeding success would continue to decline largely due to rising ocean temperatures. However, other human impacts including fisheries and disturbance also contributed.
“But if it was just climate change by itself the penguins would probably do quite well, they would adapt,” Dr Mattern told Popular Science. “Climate change is not the end of a species alone. We just can’t say all of the species are disappearing because the climate is changing. We also have to look at all of the other pressures that we’re putting on these species, particularly regional pressures.”
The research was covered by local and international media, including:
Newshub: Hoiho faces NZ extinction in 25 years
Newstalk ZB: Iconic yellow-eyed penguins ‘facing extinction’
TVNZ: NZ’s ‘celebrated’ yellow-eyed penguins facing extinction, study warns
Otago Daily Times: Yellow-eyed penguins could be gone by 2060
Stuff.co.nz: Rare, elusive, endangered yellow-eyed penguin ‘slipping towards extinction’
Radio NZ: Yellow-eyed penguins could be extinct in 25 years – study
Popular Science: New Zealand’s yellow-eyed penguin is waddling towards extinction
International Business Times: New Zealand’s iconic yellow-eyed penguins slipping to extinction as breeding grounds fall silent
Gizmodo: These Beloved Penguins May Be Doomed
Travel + Leisure: New Zealand’s Yellow-eyed penguins may soon be extinct
Independent: New Zealand’s iconic yellow-eyed penguins face extinction in 25 years