Value to the environment
Yellow-eyed penguins are one of the world’s rarest and their numbers may be declining. We need to preserve the species.
Professor Dee Boersma (University of Washington) considers penguins as ocean sentinels, helping us understand the effects of pollution, overfishing and climate change on the marine environment. Highly sensitive to variations in the ocean, penguins sound the alarm on environmental threats to marine ecosystems.
As well as being ocean sentinels there are many reasons the yellow-eyed penguin is important including:
- With an estimated 6000-7000 remaining in New Zealand, the yellow-eyed penguin is one of the most endangered penguin species on the planet (IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List of Threatened Species™). In 1988 until 1994 their threatened status was listed as ‘vulnerable’ but since 2000 they were reclassified as ‘endangered’.
- It is the last species of its genus, Megadyptes. This genus has only one extant species: the yellow-eyed penguin.
- It may be the most ancient of all living penguins.
The yellow-eyed penguin is dependent on both marine and terrestrial habitats. The terrestrial habitat provides nesting habitat as well as loafing and roosting space for times like the moult. These terrestrial habitats range from native forest to areas of grazed pasture. The marine environment provides food for yellow-eyed penguins and is essential for dispersal and movement between terrestrial habitats. The Trust’s conservation effort has been concentrated on coastal habitat protection however with an increasing awareness of fisheries interactions, more effort is now required around marine issues.