Call for nation plan for penguin conservation
Half the world's threatened penguin species live around New Zealand, and Forest & Bird is calling on the Government to protect them.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated 10 of the world's 18 penguin species were in decline, and Forest & Bird said five of them lived and bred in New Zealand and the sub-Antarctic islands.
In co-ordination with BirdLife International's Global Penguin Campaign launch, Forest & Bird has called for a national penguin recovery group, similar to the successful kiwi one, to combat the decline.
The yellow-eyed penguin, or hoiho, was the world's second-rarest and was down to 1700 breeding pairs, Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said. .
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The fiordland crested penguin, or tawaki, had 3000 pairs left. "Last summer, stoats wiped out an entire colony of 150 breeding pairs at Jackson Head, on the West Coast."
It wasn't just on the mainland that penguin were in decline. Hague said the erect-crested penguin recently disappeared as a breeding species from the sub-Antarctic Campbell Island.
"It now only breeds on two other island groups and is the least-studied penguin in New Zealand.
"The Campbell Island population of the eastern rockhopper, once the largest in New Zealand, crashed by 94 per cent a 45-year period to 1985, and has never recovered."
Department Of Conservation deputy director-general, science and policy, Bruce Parkes, said there were no plans for a penguin-specific recovery group.
"The department is working on a number of strategies that involve penguin conservation currently. More information will be available on some of these in the weeks to come," he said.
"Thirteen of the world's 18 penguin species have been recorded in the New Zealand region. Six species breed on the NZ mainland or NZ subantarctic islands. Of these three, the yellow-eyed penguin, fiordland crested penguin and little penguin, have active management programmes on the mainland.
"Of the three species found on the sub-Antarctic islands, the snares crested, rockhopper penguin, and erect-crested penguin, the management priority is to ensure that the pest-free status of the islands these species are present on is protected from invasion by predators."
Because penguin populations were spread out and faced a variety of threats, from disease to climate change, Parkes said the department would need to evaluate whether a kiwi recovery group model would be appropriate.
DOC assessment of threat status to NZ penguins:
Rockhopper: Nationally critical
Fiordland crested: Nationally endangered
Yellow-eyed: Nationally vulnerable
Little penguin: Declining
Snares crested: Naturally uncommon