Penguins are my one of my most favourite animals. These little birds who live in tightly knit communities, through adversity and hardships, protecting their little eggs are just so adorable. And look how cute they are!
Yellow-eyed penguins also known as Hoiho in Maori are one of the rarest and most endangered species on penguins. With only 4000 birds reported worldwide, they are at a real risk of becoming extinct in the next 20-40 years.
These little penguins bear a yellow band from their eyes reaching backwards, like the arms of invisible sunglasses.
Luckily the Hoiho like the beaches at Otago Peninsula to lay their eggs and raise their young. Seeing how beautiful these beaches are, its not hard to see why! Yellow-eyed penguins tend to nest with some shrubs and flax about and fiercely guard their best. This is quite different from other species of penguins who are more social when raising offspring.
Yellow-eyed penguins are quite shy with humans and I always remember our guide telling us that contact stresses them out so much they can even have a heart attack. I’m sure how true that is, but contact is a minimal as possible.
A short 10 minute walk from the drop off point, round the sand dunes and up and down some stairs we arrive at the hide. It is a long wooden cabin trench (not sure how else to describe it!) with a little viewing line so that you can observe the birds without them knowing you are there. On Taiaroa Head, the mouth of the peninsula, we overlook a beach with no human activity. No people, no footprints. It’s incredible that places like this still exist in the world.
The beaches are cleared of weeds and replanted with local flora and fauna in the non-breeding seasons. If the penguins can’t find somewhere secret to breed, they just won’t. One of the other main conversation aims is to reduce the predator threats from non native mammals, such as possums and stoats and cats.
The little penguins are treated like VIPs and they don’t even know it!
I also spotted the yellow-eyed penguins beach friendly relatives in South Africa too. Have a read over here https://jeffersadventures.blog/destinations/africa/penguins-cape-town/