One of the rarest penguin species in the world was given a fighting chance, thanks to the efforts of a New Zealand penguin hospital.
The endangered yellow-eyed penguin has between 4,000 and 5,000 birds left, with only 265 known breeding pairs. However, their numbers would be much lower if it weren’t for the help of The Wildlife Hospital and Penguin Place in Dunedin.
Those facilities have been fighting hard to keep the populations alive by treating and releasing birds back into the wild.
In an interview with BBC, a veterinarian at the Wildlife Hospital, Dr. Lisa Argilla, said, “When I see the difference we’re making, especially for the [yellow-eyed penguin], it’s a species I’m so passionate about and just being able to work with these birds and get them back into the wild, that’s actually the best part of the job.”
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95% of injured yellow-eyed penguins, also called hoihos, that are brought to the hospital for treatment are able to recover and be released back into the wild successfully.
Penguin Place also plays a massive role in the conservation of the species. A manager at Penguin Place shared with BBC, “If Penguin Place wasn’t here, I could almost guarantee that the population would be functionally extinct.”
Operating since the 1990s, Penguin Place had been treating the penguins for years on its own. Thankfully, it received a bit of help when the Wildlife Hospital opened in 2018. Penguins found by Penguin Place no longer have to be shipped to the North Island for care, but can now receive immediate care at the Wildlife Hospital, thanks to its proximity to the penguin rescue.
Due to lost tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, Penguin Place is facing the reality of closing its doors permanently – something that could be devastating to the penguin populations. The penguin rescue relied on funding from tourists, and without that revenue, they only have funds to survive a few more months.
You can learn more about the yellow-eyed penguins in the video below:Whizzco