Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand

Coastal Dune Ecosystem Reference Database

Predation by New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) as a threat to the viability of yellow-eyed penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) at Otago Peninsula, New Zealand Journal Paper

Chris Lalas, Hiltrun Ratz, Kirsty McEwan, Shaun D. McConkey
Journal / Source
Biological Conservation
Publisher / Organisation
Megadyptes antipodes, Yellow-eyed penguin, Phocarctos hookeri, NZ sea lion, Hooker sea lion
Phocarctos hookeri, NZ sea lion, Hooker sea lion, Megadyptes antipodes, Yellow-eyed penguin, predation, prey, population
This study presented evidence that creates a quandary for conservation management: predation by one threatened species, New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri), threatens the viability of another threatened species, yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), at Otago Peninsula, South Island, New Zealand. Otago Peninsula holds the largest population of yellow-eyed penguins on South Island and the only breeding population of New Zealand sea lions on the New Zealand mainland. New Zealand sea lions here represent the vanguard of re-colonisation within their prehistoric range, with nine females and 50–70 males resident in 2005. The initial indication of a potential problem was an attack on a yelloweyed penguin by a New Zealand sea lion witnessed in 1996. The majority of 20 records for attacks were at two neighbouring sites, where they coincided with decreases in penguin nest numbers and adult annual survival. In contrast, penguin nest numbers increased at a third site, the main base for male sea lions at Otago Peninsula. Evidence from prey remains indicated that male sea lions did not eat yellow-eyed penguins but that females ate 20–30 annually, with one individual possibly responsible for most kills. Modelling indicated that the penguin population at any one site could not remain viable if it was the sole source of penguins killed. The dilemma is either to do nothing, and risk collapse of the Otago Peninsula population of yellow-eyed penguins, or to take action against known culprits, and risk failure in re-colonisation of the New Zealand mainland by New Zealand sea lions.