A marine heatwave in the country’s northern waters coupled with the natural La Niña weather cycle conditions have made it harder for the little blue penguins to find food, 테일러가 말했다.
The small, noisy birds with pale blue or indigo feathers typically eat anchovies and sardines, usually diving to depths of up to 30 미터 (약 100 피트) to catch their prey. But rising water temperatures mean the small fish are moving to colder waters too deep for the birds to reach, 테일러가 말했다.
Initial findings from a Ministry of Primary Industries necropsy study showed the birds had lost their abdominal fat pad, so were in poor health before drifting to shore.
New Zealand experienced its warmest year on record in 2021, with annual temperatures hovering 0.5 ...에 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than normal, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.
Waters surrounding the country “have been pulsing up to 3 degrees Celsius recently,” New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute adjunct senior research fellow Nathanael Melia told CNN affiliate Radio New Zealand in January.
La Niña is a regular oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon that refers to the periodic cooling of ocean temperatures in the central to east-central equatorial Pacific. The current phase of the cycle is bringing warmer water to northern New Zealand which makes it harder for little blue penguins to access food, according to Taylor.
Not a new problem, but getting worse
Dave Houston, an ecologist at the Department of Conservation, said this isn’t the first time the birds have died in large numbers.
“Back in the 1970s, 80s and 90s [we had] 까지 5,000 birds in these mass die-off events,” Houston said. “Compared to past events, this is relatively small.”
지금까지, penguin deaths have been reported in the country’s North Island — where cases have happened in the past — and none have been flagged in the South Island.
While Houston said the phenomenon is part of a naturally occurring cycle, he admitted that climate change had exacerbated its negative effects.
“우리는 알고 있습니다 [little blue penguins] can survive in warmer waters, but it has made life difficult for them,” 그는 말했다.
Bruce McKinley, president of Birds New Zealand, said climate change and pollution might make things worse in the future.
“The event itself is natural and has happened before, it could be changing in the pattern or the intensity due to warming of oceans because of human-induced climate change. But we just don’t know,” McKinley said.