BREEDING pairs of yellow-eyed penguins on Stewart Island have reduced by more than 70% since 2008, a survey of the island has found.
Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust conservation science adviser Dr Trudi Webster shared the grim statistic in a talk she gave to a yellow-eyed penguin symposium hosted by the trust at Otago University on Saturday.
The survey found 44 nests across Stewart Island and its offshore islands during the past year, which was a drastic fall from 154 active nests in 2008, and 183 nests in 1999.
Eighteen people and one dog were part of the survey teams which accessed nest sites by boat, helicopter, or tramping in.
Dr Webster said several projects were under way to try to turn the tide on declining numbers, and work had begun to establish a penguin rehabilitation facility at Mamaku Point.
Collaboration with Predator Free Rakiura was continuing.
Department of Conservation (Doc) senior ranger, biodiversity, Murihiku Ros Cole followed Dr Webster’s talk with information about collaboration with Ngai Tahu on the survey.
Some of the Titi Islands around Stewart Island were vested with Ngai Tahu, which was a willing partner in the conservation efforts, he said.
“Those islands are intrinsic to them… there’s so much whakapapa and history in those islands.”
Doc technical adviser ecology Bruce McKinlay said the symposium was in its 32nd year, and was a unique opportunity for everyone involved in yellow-eyed penguin conservation to come together.
About 90 people attended the symposium, from Christchurch to Stewart Island.