penguin peeping in Dunedin

New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where you can see penguins in the wild. while some of the beaches are almost infested with the little blue ones, the yellow eyed penguins are rare. they nest on only a small portion of beaches on New Zealand's south coast and islands. with fewer than 4,000 estimated penguins in existence, they are considered to be an endangered species.

while we were staying in Dunedin, we decided to visit the Penguin Place conservatory and sanctuary on the Otago peninsula. they offer a protected area for the yellow eyed penguins to nest, as well as veterinary and rehabilitative services for injured penguins. walking tours allow you to travel through a series of trenches and hides to [hopefully] view some penguins while leaving them undisturbed.

we first encountered a mother penguin coming back from the water with dinner. her two "teenager" chicks had quite the argument over who got to eat first. the chicks were almost grown, and soon would be setting out on their own to hunt and nest.

yellow eyed penguins are unique in that they do not live in massive colonies. a pair will set up a small nest, usually in the brush or trees, and will not like to be in sight of any other pairs. this makes protecting the habitat even more difficult, as yellow eyed penguins need much more space than another species that would live together.

the yellow eyes are not the only animals taking advantage of this sanctuary. there are a few huts where little blue penguins like to huddle, and the penguin activity on the beach also attracts fur seals.

[I'm pretty sure that humans would be happy to call this view home as well.]

just as our tour was ready to head back, we spotted another adult coming in from their afternoon swim. this guy stopped and posed for our group, showing off his yellow markings. since the penguins are all free to roam as they please, we were lucky to see one this close up.

before we left, we stopped by the hospital section to say hello to the birds in recuperation. they were loud and kindof smelly, but still SO CUTE. I always feel weird about animals in the zoo, so it was great to see these birds in their natural habitat, and know that they are being protected.

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