The yellow-eyed penguin is native to the New Zealand’s south island and sub-Antarctic islands – and a sharp decrease has left a mere 1,600 to 1,800 in the wild. There were about 7,000 in 2000.
A survey of the island sanctuary of Codfish Island (Whenua Hou) recently revealed the country’s bird population is at its lowest in almost three decades.
“Unlike previous years where disease and high temperatures caused deaths on land, this year birds have disappeared at sea,” Malta Today quoted Forest and Bird’s chief executive Kevin Hague as saying.
“There is an active set net fishery within the penguins’ Whenua Hou foraging ground, and the indications are that nearly half the Whenua Hou hoiho population has been drowned in one or more of these nets.”
Two dozen nests were recorded on Whenua Hou in 2016, but just 14 this year. The bird which appears on the New Zealand $5 note is, evidently, nearing extinction.
“The trust has huge concerns for the future of hoiho [yellow-eyed penguins] on Whenua Hou given their rapid decline. Our focus must be the marine environment where hoiho spend at least half of their life as it is unlikely that terrestrial impacts are a major factor in the decline here,” added yellow-eyed Penguin Trust general manager Sue Murray.
University of Otago penguin expert Thomas Mattern concluded: “Quite frankly, the yellow-eyed penguins, in my professional opinion, are on their way out.”