New Zealand Tourism Consequences on Yellow-eyed Penguins

Yellow-eyed penguins at Katiki Point in New Zealand. Photo taken by Iain McGregor. Retrieved from


The yellow-eyed penguin is endemic to New Zealand and is also a popular cultural icon in New Zealand (Katz, 2017). However, over the years these penguins have faced population declines and are now considered to be endangered. Human disturbance has a large impact on the population of yellow-eyed penguins. A large cause of population declines comes from unregulated tourism (McClung et al., 2004). Since these penguins do not have many habituation opportunities, they are more sensitive to human tourism (French et al., 2018).

Tourism impacts stress, reproduction, and behavior in yellow-eyed penguins (Ellenberg et al., 2007). The presence of humans around these penguins causes an increase in stress-induced corticosterone. If this stress is prolonged or frequent, it can result in decreased fitness and survival in adults (Ellenberg et al., 2007). This increased stress can also impact the behavior of adults and their reproductive success (French et al., 2018).

Tourists often will ignore fences and signs in order to get closer to the penguins (Huffadine, 2018). Penguins in these touristed areas have lower breeding success and lower fledgling weights (McClung et al., 2004). A large reason for this is that the presence of tourism will cause the stressed penguins to change their behavior to avoid the humans. These changes in behavior include a decrease in the time spent at their nest, an increase in travel time, and an increase in the likelihood of nest abandonment (French et al., 2018). These changes in the behavior of adults cause negative impacts on the survival of their children.

Parental care is an important factor in the growth of fledglings. However, with the adult penguins spending more time avoiding the nests because of tourism, the fledglings receive lower provisions. Continuously missing meals or missing a meal during a year with poor food supply can lead to lighter fledgling weights and even death (Huffadine, 2018). Lower fledgling weight can have long-term population consequences like lower survival and recovery rates (McClung et al., 2004). It is important for humans to better mitigate the impacts of tourism in order to help protect this endangered species.


Ellenberg U., Setiawan A. N., Cree A., Houston D. M., Seddon P. J. (2007) Elevated hormonal stress response and reduced reproductive output in Yellow-eyed penguins exposed to unregulated tourism. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 152(1):54-63.

French R., Muller C., Chilvers B.,  Battley P. (2019). Behavioural consequences of human disturbance on subantarctic Yellow-eyed Penguins Megadyptes antipodes. Bird Conservation International, 29(2), 277-290.

McClung M. R., Seddon P. J., Massaro M., Setiawan A.N. (2004) Nature-based tourism impacts on yellow-eyed penguins Megadyptes antipodes: does unregulated visitor access affect fledging weight and juvenile survival?, Biological Conservation, 119(2):279-285.

Katz B. (2017) New Zealand’s Yellow-Eyed Penguins May Be in Trouble.

Huffadine L. (2018) People with selfie sticks are harming endangered yellow-eyed penguins.

“Hey! Turn that light off!” – Sea Turtles and Light Pollution

Sea turtles (Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae families) are beloved by many, featured in animated kids movies like Finding Nemo as well in many viral videos showing newly-hatched babies scurrying into the ocean. Many people who live near them know they are endangered and care about them. What they don’t know is that their back porch light to their beach house is causing trouble. Artificial light pollution is a relatively new threat for sea turtles, disrupting many of their physiological functions.

Florida’s beaches are where many sea turtle species call home, nesting under the sand in the dunes. As beach tourism in the state continues to grow, more and more artificial light is spreading along the coastline, threatening these nesting sites. The artificial light disrupts the turtle’s circadian rhythm, confusing them if it is nighttime or daytime, making them more vulnerable to nocturnal predators who catch them unaware (Hu et al., 2018). In addition, when baby turtles are hatching, light pollution can disorient them during their dash to the ocean (Long et al., 2022). Geo-spacial collected data shows, however, that sea turtles are already avoiding areas of high light pollution (figure 1). Therefore, continued expansion of lights along Florida’s beaches could continue to reduce usable habitat for sea turtle nesting activities.

Figure 1. Geo-spacial map of artificial light on the Florida coast vs. density of Loggerhead turtle nests (Hu et al., 2018)

Luckily, the people of Florida have the sea turtles backs. Legislation exists that prohibits certain wavelengths of light to be visible from the beach, requiring shielding of exterior light bulbs (Mascovich et al., 2018). Education programs are also conducted to inform tourists who may be staying at a place close to the beach, informing them to turn off their exterior lights at night to protect nests. These programs are conducted with mixed success, however, with guests often still leaving their lights on throughout the night (Mascovich et al., 2018).

New lighting technology has also recently become an idea of preventing further and reducing current light pollution. For example studies show that Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) are generally more sensitive to shorter wavelengths of light at less than 560 nanometers (Long et al., 2022). Thus, the state of Florida has been testing a new 624 nanometer lamp to use along coastal highways, to try and reduce light pollution that highways create. A study conducted by Long et al. showed that these new lamps DO work, with hatching turtles finding their way to the ocean just fine (2022).

Overall, while these solutions do work, they are not strictly enforced. There must be more legislative action and encouragement to use higher frequency light near the nesting locations to reduce light pollution.


Hu, Z., Hu, H., & Huang, Y. (2018). Association between nighttime artificial light pollution and sea turtle nest density along Florida coast: A geospatial study using Viirs Remote Sensing Data. Environmental Pollution, 239, 30–42.

Long, T. M., Eldridge, J., Hancock, J., Hirama, S., Kiltie, R., Koperski, M., & Trindell, R. N. (2022). Balancing human and sea turtle safety: Evaluating long-wavelength streetlights as a coastal roadway management tool. Coastal Management, 50(2), 184–196.

Mascovich, K. A., Larson, L. R., & Andrews, K. M. (2018). Lights on, or lights off? hotel guests’ response to nonpersonal educational outreach designed to protect nesting sea turtles. Chelonian Conservation and Biology, 17(2), 206.