We have become far too familiar with animals disappearing, or at the very least, being put on the endangered species list. Some of those animals disappear from the scene without much attention but some little penguins are getting the attention that they need.
Before the turn-of-the-century, thousands of little penguins called Middle Island home. By the time 2000 came around, half of them were gone and only four penguins were left by 2005.
Unfortunately, those penguins had no defense against the European red fox, a species that was introduced to the area and could access the island at low tide.
It was a chicken farmer that had the right idea as to what they could do to help the dropping population of penguins. Alan Marsh made the suggestion that a type of herding dog could protect the penguins. Photos of the island dogs are shared on the Middle Island Penguin Project Instagram page.
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Maremma sheepdogs do quite well at protecting the animals under their care, so they put them on the island to protect the penguins from the daily fox invasions.
Maremma sheepdogs are of a very old breed that has been doing their job of protecting animals for hundreds of years.
Many breeds of sheepdogs will intimidate the animals to protect them but the Maremma sheepdogs actually form bonds with the animals, and in the case of penguins, become a part of the flock.
After this idea was approved by the Warrnambool City Council, a one-month trial was put into place. They were surprised with how well it worked. Just the fact that the dog was there kept the foxes from going on the island in the first place.
Ever since it got its start, the program has been running strong and now there are some 180 Little Penguins that visit the island every year during the breeding season.
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