Wednesday, April 20, 2016

This Shy, Yellow-Eyed Penguin is Headed Toward Extinction

New Zealand‘s elusive yellow-eyed penguin naturally runs for cover under forest shrubs, trees and branches. It’s an incredibly shy penguin. But the forest isn’t enough to protect the world’s rarest penguin species, and experts fear that extinction could become a reality soon without urgent action.

Struggling to Survive

While it’s difficult — even for scientists — to spot the yellow-eyed penguin in the wild, it’s not difficult to identify them with their pale yellow eyes and the yellow band across their heads. Their voice is described by IUCN as “slightly musical” compared to other penguins. But right now, the endangered penguin species is likely singing a sad tune.

Despite conservation efforts, their population numbers continue to drop from approximately 6,000 a decade ago to only 2,000 today. Their future outlook looks even bleaker with only 18 out of 100 penguin chicks making it past year one.

Despite its shyness, the yellow-eyed penguin is a survivor. The New Zealand penguin has survived having its habitat bulldozed through by farmers to make room for cattle and sheep. It also survived a massive fire in 1995 that burned half of the population, explains The New York Times. But the major threats to the penguins keep stacking up:

1. Predators like ferrets, stoats, pigs and cats
2. Disease, like avian malaria and blood parasites
3. Temperature changes and climate change
4. Food shortages
5. Human disturbance
6. Fires
7. Bycatch (e.g. drowning in fishing nets)

“The Political Lobby of the Fishing Industry is Much Stronger Than Us” 

Fergus Sutherland, the caretaker of a penguin reserve called Te Rere, worries about the last threat a lot. Even though the penguins benefit from protections on land, they spend most of their time at sea — where they aren’t afforded the same protections. Conservationists like Sutherland are demanding more fishing restrictions to protect the penguins, but as Sutherland explains to The New York Times, “the political lobby of the fishing industry is much stronger than us.”

Nelson Cross, who represents the fishing industry in a forum called  South-East Marine Protection, admits to The New York Times that there are “unfortunately occasional instances where a penguin has been caught in a commercial trawl.” However, Cross is quick to add that there’s “no evidence that recreational fishing impacts in any way on the penguins.”

Overfishing hurts the penguins indirectly, too. Conservationists are now seeing more barracuda and shark attacks on the penguins because of decreasing fish numbers. These food shortages are forcing the penguins to compete with other predators.

Take Action! 

Lend your voice to the cause by signing and sharing this petition demanding more penguin protection and more fishing restrictions. We have to be louder than New Zealand’s fishing lobby or face the deafening silence of the yellow-eyed penguin’s extinction.


Photo Credit: Matt Binns

source: Care2

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