The future looks grim for a penguin species native to New Zealand. The yellow-eyes penguins are in danger of extinction, and their populations might disappear completely by 2043 if the situation does not improve in the near future. A study published in PeerJ found that the biggest cause is not climate change, but human activity.
Climate change is not to blame
Over the past two decades, the populations of yellow-eyed penguins have been declining rapidly. Between 1996 and 2015, their numbers dropped by 76 percent. During the 1940s, several reports stated that the increasing temperatures in Kumo Kumo Whero Bay contributed to this decline in yellow-eyed penguin population.
However, schoolteacher Lancelot Eric Richdale conducted an independent research and found that these populations thrived, and the numbers did not drop significantly. Therefore, climate change did not have such a big impact on the penguins. Overstating the effects of global warming would cause us to neglect the way in which human activity affected the animals.
The disappearance of yellow-eyed penguins might lead to great economic losses
The research indicates that the main enemy of the yellow-eyed penguins is fishing. People use gillnets, which are some kind of vertical nets and, besides catching fish, they also capture penguins and some other marine creatures. A 2000 study found 42 yellow-eyed penguins killed by these nets, together with 30 more that fishermen admitted they had killed by accident.
In 2015, researchers discovered that the number of breeding penguin pairs had reached 58, compared with 200 during the previous decades. This is alarming, and not only for the future of the species. The country might suffer great economic losses if the yellow-eyed penguins go extinct.
Fishing is based mostly on low-quality species which do not bring much profit. Most of the money came from tourism, which was linked to penguin populations. Only one pair has the potential to bring $250,000 per year. Therefore, besides saving the species and the environment, people should also try to save their economy.
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