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Down on the Otago Peninsula's beaches is where one of New Zealand conservation’s most significant success stories can be witnessed; the resurgence of the rare and endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin.
At the end of their day’s fishing, even if they have chicks to feed, they will stay at sea if they see threatening animals or humans between the sea and their nests.
Hoiho numbers on the Otago Peninsula seriously declined because of habitat loss through farm development, introduced predators and, more recently, poor breeding seasons. Since 1987 a public campaign, spearheaded by the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, has made significant in-roads to restoring and safeguarding penguin habitats. Some peninsula farmers with colonies on their land have initiated their own conservation measures, and installed hides so the birds can come ashore and nest in private without disturbance from people. The effective wildlife protection, couple with tourism opportunities presented, led British ecologist David Bellamy to comment that Otago Peninsula was the finest example of ecotourism in the world – a quote oft-used by Dunedin’s tourism marketing fraternity.
The best way to observe Yellow-Eyed Penguins on the peninsula is with one of the highly regarded wildlife tour operators, who are most likely to include sea lion and seal sightings in their tours.
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