New Zealand’s Incredibly Elusive ‘Yellow-Eyed’ Penguin Species Closing In On Extinction

New Zealand’s incredibly elusive and stunning yellow-eyed penguins are among the rarest on the planet. Indigenous to New Zealand and only one of the few penguin species found north of the Antarctic Ocean, the survival of these birds may be in serious peril, according to conservationists who fear the species may be closing in on extinction.

The yellow-eyed penguin also known as the “hoiho” or “noise shouter,” is commonly found off the coast of the south island of New Zealand. However, it is also found on some of the others islands of the main island namely Stewart, Auckland, and the Campbell Islands. Listed as highly endangered, their numbers in the wild have dwindled from a little less than 4,000 a few years ago to nearly 2,000 as per current estimates. Conservationists reckon that this decline may be largely attributed to extensive deforestation, as well as predators native to these territories.

Incredibly Elusive 'Yellow-eyed' Penguin Species Closing In On Extinction
[Image via Shutterstock]
For many years, conservationists have argued that excessive fishing in and around the waters constituting the penguin’s immediate habitat may have contributed to their sliding numbers. They reckon that yellow-eyed penguins are often targeted at sea by large ocean predators as fish populations in these waters have fallen drastically owing to excessive commercial and sometimes recreational fishing. Others, however, contend that recreational fishing does not in itself represent a major stumbling block for conservationists.

According to local resident, Nelson Cross, penguins are unfortunate victims of conscious human interference more than anything else.

“While there have unfortunately been occasional instances where a penguin has been caught in a commercial trawl, there is no evidence that recreational fishing impacts in any way on the penguins. Penguins suffer from human interference. Humans ignore the fact that penguins are wild animals and not a domestic variety accustomed to constant harassment and handling in the name of research.”

However, on land, a major effort to preserve the species is already underway. Yellow-eyed penguins are essentially forest dwellers and are among the most hard-to-spot animals in the wild. Conservationists have anxiously advocated urgent reforestation measures to address the perturbing decline of this highly-endangered, nationally vulnerable penguin species. On the other hand, they also hope that the evolving ecotourism industry will compel marine authorities to undertake concerted preservation measures to prevent New Zealand’s yellow-eyed penguin population from racing towards extinction. These beautiful animals are known to easily lure plenty of tourists from everywhere year after year.

According to local conservationist David McFarlane, yellow-eyed penguin populations can greatly prosper if ecotourism gets popularized in the region.

“Ecotourism is big business. Penguins are bringing in good income in this region. It is only reasonable to allocate more funds for the protection of the yellow-eyed penguin at this dramatic point in their lives.”

New Zealand’s yellow-eyed penguin species is one of the larger species of penguin with adult birds measuring over 75 cm in height. Originally believed to have been related to the very tiny blue Penguin, another species inhabiting the same territory, it is now widely acknowledged that these two are largely unrelated.

New Zealand's Incredibly Elusive 'Yellow-eyed' Penguin Closing In On Extinction
[Image via Shutterstock]
The yellow-eyed penguin is named because of its yellow iris and distinctive yellow “head band.”Unlike other penguin species, these penguins are not typically colonial, rather their breeding areas are isolated. They prefer private nesting grounds over colonies and are almost equally dependent on oceanic and land habitats, which include hills and coastal beaches characterized by vegetation most predominantly shrubs.

In the year 2000, the total number of individual yellow-eyed penguins was estimated to be as healthy as 7,000 adult penguins. However, these numbers have dwindled astonishingly since then. Within New Zealand, yellow-eyed penguins are considered dangerously vulnerable and have, of late, prompted experts to raise the bar on the conservation efforts directed towards the protection of this highly exquisite, elusive, and fragile penguin species.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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