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Behavioural consequences of human disturbance on subantarctic Yellow-eyed Penguins Megadyptes antipodes



Human disturbance can have behavioural, physiological and population-level consequences on wildlife. Unregulated tourism is having a negative effect on the endangered Yellow-eyed Penguin Megadyptes antipodes on mainland New Zealand. Subantarctic Yellow-eyed Penguins are exposed to tourism on Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands group, 450 km south of New Zealand. Restrictions and guidelines for tourism are in place on Enderby Island, but there has been little study on the efficacy of these. We quantified behavioural responses of the Yellow-eyed Penguin on Enderby Island to human presence by documenting movement patterns and behaviour of penguins in the presence and absence of humans, through both controlled approaches and monitoring penguin behaviour in the presence of tourists. We used these data to model the effective approach distances for reducing disturbance. Human presence caused a significant drop in the probability of a successful transit to or from their nest, and significantly increased the time penguins spent alert and decreased the time spent preening. Modelling showed the distance from a human to a penguin is a significant predictor of the likelihood of a bird displaying disturbance behaviour, with the current minimum approach guideline of 5 m not sufficient for preventing disturbance. Our results indicate that the minimum approach guideline needs to be revised if the probability of disturbance is to be reduced. Modelling the appropriateness of minimum approach guidelines by predicting the probability of disturbance is a useful technique that could be applied to other species and systems. Worldwide, management guidelines need to be scientifically evaluated to ensure efficacy and cater for the more sensitive species affected.


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Behavioural consequences of human disturbance on subantarctic Yellow-eyed Penguins Megadyptes antipodes



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