A Political Ecology of the Yellow-eyed Penguin in Southern New Zealand: A Conceptual and Theoretical Approach

  • Eric J. SheltonEmail author
  • Hazel Tucker
  • Jundan (Jasmine) Zhang
Part of the Geoheritage, Geoparks and Geotourism book series (GGAG)


Here, we engage with the political and ecological story of the yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), a major tourist attraction, during four years of dramatically declining numbers of breeding pairs (New Zealand Department of Conservation in Unpublished census of yellow-eyed penguin breeding pairs 2015–16, 2016). One site, Long Point, is useful for presenting the possibilities of thematic integration since, using the principles of reintroduction biology (Seddon et al. in Conserv Biol 21(2):303–312, 2007; Armstrong and Seddon in Trends Ecol Evol 23:20–25, 2008), it is being used specifically to produce habitat for seabirds, rather than the more traditional restoration ecology approach. Also, the demands of tourism, for example to show respect through product offering (Zhang and Shelton in Tourism Anal 20(3):343–353, 2015) are, from the outset, being reinterpreted and integrated into the design and management of the site. Political ecology of tourism (Mostafanezhad et al. in Political ecology of tourism: communities, power and the environment. Routledge, London, pp 1–22, 2016) potentially is a fruitful analytic tool for formulating such thematic integration of ‘wildlife tourism’, ‘applied ecology’, and ‘environmental education and interpretation’. Political ecology emerged as a critique of an allegedly apolitical cultural ecology and ecological anthropology, and illustrates the unavoidable entanglement of political economy with ecological concerns (Zimmerer in Prog Hum Geogr 32(1):63–78, 2006). Also, political ecology has been described as ‘an urgent kind of argument or text … that examines winners or losers, is narrating using dialectics, begins and/or ends in a contradiction, and surveys both the status of nature and stories about the status of nature’ (Robbins in Political ecology: a critical introduction. Wiley-Blackwell, New York, 2004, p. viii). Relevant examples of such narratives include Shelton and Tucker’s (Tourism Rev Int 11(3):205–212, 2008, p. 198) text that constituted ‘the restoration narrative … central to the long-term viability of tourism in New Zealand because environmental preservation, conservation and restoration facilitate the continuation, and possible expansion, of nature-based tourism’ and Reis and Shelton’s (Tourism Anal 16(3):375–384, 2011, p. i) demonstration that ‘nature-based tourism activities are highly modulated by how Nature has been constructed in modern Western societies.’ It is this textual, discursive approach that differentiates political ecology from other approaches to issues surrounding ‘natural area tourism’, for example, the impacts approach of Newsome et al. (Natural Area Tourism: Ecology, impacts and management. Channel View Publications, Bristol, 2013).


Political ecology Wildlife tourism Conservation Yellow-eyed penguin Reintroduction biology 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric J. Shelton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hazel Tucker
    • 2
  • Jundan (Jasmine) Zhang
    • 3
  1. 1.Yellow-eyed Penguin TrustDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of TourismUniversity of OtagoOtagoNew Zealand
  3. 3.Institute of Geography and Economic HistoryUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

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