Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Hundreds of Dead Penguins Wash Up on New Zealand’s Shores, Experts Blame Global Warming

June 18, 2022
Eudyptula minor

In the past two months, more than 500 of the world’s smallest penguins have mysteriously died on New Zealand beaches. Experts are not sure what caused the deaths, but they suspect climate change and global warming playing a role.

According to The Guardian, a collection of dead little penguins (Eudyptula minor), locally known as kororā, have been washing up on the country’s North Island beach since early May. The largest group was a group of 183 dead birds that washed up on Ninety Mile Beach near Kaitaia last week.

In early May, another 109 penguins were found on the same beach. Another group of about 100 dead penguins was spotted at Cable Bay near Nelson last week, although the exact number is unclear.

It was not immediately clear what caused the death of the penguins, but experts point out that most dead seabirds weigh less. Small penguins were expected to weigh between 0.8 and 1 kg,  but some of the bodies weighed less than half of that.

“There was just no body fat on them; there was hardly any muscle to show,” Graeme Taylor, a DOC seabird scientist, told The Guardian. “When they get to that stage of emaciation, they can’t dive,” which eventually causes them to starve or die of hypothermia because they lack a protective layer of blubber, he added

Malnutrition of dead penguins indicates that they have not eaten enough fish, their favourite food, which may be a sign of overfishing. But Taylor suspects that rising sea levels due to climate change and a protracted cyclone-inducing weather system known as La Nina might have forced the fish into deeper, cooler waters where birds can no longer reach them.