A Penguins Best Friend Turns Into Movie

Mass penguin attacks on Middle Island by wild foxes seemed a frequent ordeal for a penguin loving town near the island on the coast of Victoria, Australia – until a local farmer came up with a canine solution.

It seemed unlikely, but it worked.  Now the use of Maremma sheepdogs to guard the colony of penguins has become one of Warrnambool’s most unusual features and a world first in conservation practice.783707-dog

Warrnambool council manager and dog-handler Peter Abbott said the program began in 2006 after plummeting penguin counts. “It got to a point where the colony was about to be wiped out,” he said.

The small island is just a few hundred yards from the shore, wadeable for humans and, as the locals discovered, swimable for foxes.

However, while animal-lovers can visit the dogs at the town’s maritime village, fraternizing with the public is a controlled exercise. They need to remain working dogs to remain effective on the job, said Abbott.
“The dogs stay on the island through the penguin breeding season at summertime and they stay there overnight of course by themselves. And also make sure people don’t go to the island as well.” Penguin numbers have increased to about 180 after the Maremma project was launched.
The success of using the Italian breed has spurred a multi-million dollar movie to be made and named in honor of the first dog guardian named Oddball.

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“We went from about 800 penguins, down to just four.”

The current pair of patrol pooches, sisters named Eudy and Tula, live on Middle Island to guard the Little penguins from predators such as foxes and wild dogs.

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