18 January 2017

Yellow-eyed penguins at risk from new NZ climate record

NEW ZEALAND - Increasing temperatures will have disastrous consequences for New Zealand's wildlife - including yellow-eyed penguins - unless the Government acts urgently to cut emissions and fund environmental research, says conservation organisation Forest & Bird.

Figures released this month by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) show that 2016 was the hottest year on record for New Zealand, in line with a new global record announced by the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service last week.

“Yellow eyed penguins, kea, and tuatara are already showing some signs of climate change induced stress. The consequences for these and many other native species will be severe unless the Government starts leading the way in cutting emissions and funding adaptation research,” said Forest & Bird's Chief Executive, Kevin Hague.

“In the face of the undeniable and unique impacts of climate change on this country it seems extraordinary and indefensible that New Zealand has been one of the slowest developed nations to act. The situation demands urgency, and our hope is that the new ... administration will have the political courage to accelerate the pace of action, to match what is required by the evidence.”

Yellow-eyed penguins are already on the verge of extinction. Since 2012, the population has plummeted from 491 breeding pairs to an estimated 190 pairs in 2016. Research suggest one of the reasons for this is mass starvation due to the changing climate.

“Climate change is especially a problem for New Zealand’s wildlife, because so many of our species are found only here. For many native species, already decimated by introduced predators, land conversion, and water pollution, a local extinction will be the end of their entire population,” said Mr Hague.

“New Zealand has a new Prime Minister, and a Deputy Prime Minister who is also Minister of Climate Change. They must seize the chance to act for the environment, the economy, and the lives of ordinary New Zealanders.

“New Zealand needs more science to help us predict the impact of climate change on native species, a plan to deal with the impacts of climate change on our natural world, and to urgently cut emissions,” said Mr Hague.

Penguins, kea, tuatara at risk from NZ climate change [press release], 9 January 2017, Forest & Bird

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