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New Zealand penguins in crisis

New Zealand penguins in crisis

Fiordland Crested Penguin, credit Craig McKenzie

Half the world’s threatened penguin species live in New Zealand and yet there is no coordinated government plan to protect them.

Forest & Bird is joining a global campaign to help save penguins and is calling for a national recovery plan to protect New Zealand’s struggling penguin species.

The world’s penguins are in crisis with 10 of out of 18 species at risk of being wiped out. Five of these threatened species live and breed on New Zealand’s mainland and sub-Antarctic islands.

"We are urging the New Zealand government to establish a national Penguin Recovery Group, administered by the Department of Conservation. This group, similar to the very successful Kiwi Recovery Group, would facilitate a more coordinated and collaborative approach to the conservation of all our penguins," says Forest & Bird's CE Kevin Hague.

“Our penguins are in crisis and need help now. New Zealand is home to half the world’s at-risk penguin species and yet the majority don't have a recovery plan in place."

“New Zealand is home to the world’s second rarest penguin, the yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho. Only 1,700 breeding pairs are thought to remain on earth and they are in trouble, with significant declines in the last two to three years. They are being killed in trawl and set nets, and by disease and introduced predators."

"Our Fiordland crested penguin/tawaki, a shy forest-dwelling penguin has an estimated 3,000 breeding pairs remaining. Last summer stoats wiped out an entire colony of 150 breeding pairs at Jackson Head, on the West Coast. They are also threatened by human impacts, including fishing nets, tourism and climate change."

The erect-crested penguin, another endangered New Zealand native, 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% over a 45-year period to 1985 and has never recovered.

Together with the other 120 BirdLife partner organisations, with 10 million members worldwide, Forest & Bird is calling on governments to take action and commit to a strategy to help the world’s penguins recover and thrive.

Along with other community groups, Forest & Bird help protect penguin colonies around New Zealand, including in the Hauraki Gulf, Wellington, Timaru, South Otago, and Southland. Local spokespeople are available to talk to media.

Background information

BirdLife’s global penguin campaign launches on Monday 10 April, see

New Zealand is home to a third of the world’s penguin species - we are the penguin capital of the globe.

New Zealand’s six penguin species are: yellow-eyed penguins/hoiho (endemic), Fiordland crested penguin/tawaki (endemic) and the little penguin/kororā, which can all be seen on the mainland. Three other species are endemic to New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands: the eastern rockhopper penguin, the erect-crested penguin and the Snares crested penguin.

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