New Zealand's penguins facing extinction, scientists warn

"Now we all know that Yellow-eyed penguins are quietly slipping away we need to make a choice," researchers wrote in a news study.
By Brooks Hays   |   May 16, 2017 at 10:45 AM

May 16 (UPI) -- New Zealand's yellow-eyed penguin, Megadyptes antipodes, is in trouble. A new study suggests the iconic species could be extinct by 2060.

The new research considered a variety factors driving the decline of the yellow-eyed penguin. Researchers suggest climate change, including rising sea surface temperatures, explains roughly a third of the penguin's population decline.

Other factors are difficult to distinguish, and conservations continue to bemoan the shortcoming of monitoring efforts.

"The problem is that we lack data to examine the extent of human impacts, ranging from fisheries interactions, introduced predators to human disturbance, all of which contribute to the penguins' demise," Thomas Mattern, researcher at the University of Otago, said in a news release.

Despite the lack of data, the new study, published in the journal PeerJ, suggests some two-thirds of the species' decline can be blamed on humans.

Penguins continue to be caught and drown in fishing nets. As well, much of their habitat remains degraded by human activities, and penguins are regularly found poisoned by unidentified toxins.

"Now we all know that Yellow-eyed penguins are quietly slipping away we need to make a choice," researchers wrote in the new published paper. "Without immediate, bold and effective conservation measures we will lose these penguins from our coasts within our lifetime."

Researchers say their warnings of impending extinction are conservative and don't consider the potential impact of die off events. In 2013, 60 penguins were found dead.

"Any further losses of yellow-eyed penguins will bring forward the date of their local extinction," Mattern said.

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