Fears for endangered wildlife after New Zealand earthquake

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The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook New Zealand On Monday is thought to have caused significant damage to wildlife after colonies and breeding grounds were destroyed by landslides and aftershocks.

An undersea canyon approximately 800 metres off the coast of Kaikoura, based on New Zealand’s South Island, is home to a variety of marine wildlife including species of whale, blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals, endangered dolphins and protected bird life.

Conservationists have reported that half of the largest colony of the severely endangered Hutton Shearwater bird has been destroyed.

Fur seals are also likely to have been killed in the landslide which wiped out their breeding ground in Ohau Point, 27km north of Kaikoura.

Ian Angus, Manager of Marine Species and Threats at the Department of Conservation (DOC), said: “It is clear from reports that the recent earthquakes have impacted upon wildlife, including seals, penguins and seabirds.”

He added that in order to limit further risk to the public and restore damage, the first priority of the organisation is to:

Assist Civil Defence with the recovery effort, including ensuring that structures and tracks are safe.

Bruce Robertson, a Marine Scientist at Otago University, declared that the loss of breeding grounds would cause a drop in the number of New Zealand fur seal numbers locally.

Robertson added: “There is evidence that seals could have felt the tremors before humans did and fled to the water before the landslide, so possibly quite a few escaped.”

The critically endangered Hectors dolphin is also thought to be severely effected and cannot adapt easily

The critically endangered Hectors dolphin is also thought to be severely effected and cannot adapt easily.

The Hectors Dolphin, the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, could have been the hardest hit. These mammal inhabit a small area of just 50km surrounding Kaikoura and rely on the specific piece of coastline to breed, feed and find family members.

There are thought to be only 55 of their subspecies (The Maui’s dolphin) left; they are already critically endangered.

Following the disaster, a special fund has since been co-ordinated by the New Zealand Red Cross for the victims of these quakes.

Those looking to help protect the wildlife are being encouraged to become involved with the work of New Zealand Department of Conservation.