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Wildlife – Penguins

Why are Yellow Eyed Penguins/Hoihos so rare?

With a population of around 5000, the Yellow Eyed Penguin (so called due to its eye colour and the yellow band around its head), is one of the rarest and most individual of the world’s 17 penguin species. Living only in New Zealand’s Southern coastal forests without an iceberg in sight, they are very shy birds that nest well away from their neighbours; most different from the other dense penguin colonies.

They are very loyal birds that usually mate for life, their eggs are laid in September/November and both parents help hatch and rear the chicks. March/April is a very dangerous time for the penguins as they must stay ashore whilst moulting and wait for their new feather coats to grow.

It’s not easy being a YEP, apart from the usual hungry sealion, shark or baracoutta, they were originally hunted by Maori as food and have had it pretty tough since. More and more of their forest homes have been cleared, predatory mammals have been introduced that disturb and raid nests, fishing practices affect food sources and entangle them in nets. However all is not lost, the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust is doing their bit.

Please consider:

  • At the sight of people penguins ‘freeze’ or leave the area, so the best place to view them is from the platform above the Petrified Forest.
  • They go out to sea in the morning and return early evening, please do not stand between them and the sea or their nests.
  • Keep your distance.
  • Talk quietly and move slowly.
  • The entire Reserve is a dog free zone – ALL dogs find penguins irresistible, they will kill them.