Sheepdogs Save Endangered Penguins From Extinction

“No foxes have killed penguins in the past seven years.”

This is clever. Very clever. Sheepdogs are bred and trained to protect sheep against wolves, but that doesn’t mean that their skills can’t be used to protect different animals against other species of predators. This is exactly what the Maremma Project did on Warrnambool’s Middle Island, off the south coast of Australia. They took 2 Maremma sheepdogs, a breed originally from central Italy, and brought them to the island to protect a dwindling and seriously endangered population of Little Penguins from foxes.

The situation was dire around seven years ago when the sheepdogs were introduced: Where a colony of around 1,500 Little Penguins once thrived, only 4 breeding pairs remained. The colony was truly on the brink of extinction, at least on the island. We first wrote about this about four-and-a-half years ago, and since then things have kept improving, surpassing the expectations of pretty much everyone involved. The last census showed about 200 breeding adults, but most importantly, not one Little Penguin has been killed by a fox since their dog bodyguards landed on the island!


Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Little Penguin (aka Fairy Penguin or Little Blue Penguin) is the smallest species of penguin. It only grows to about 13 inches and is found on the coastlines of southern Australia, New Zealand, with possible sightings in Chile.

 

 

Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Above is an Australian fox. They can reach Middle Island when the tide is low.

 

Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0


Main Photo Credit: By, M Kuhn, From Flickr

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68 comments

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.2 years ago

That's utterly great! I see the foxes were introduced, which illustrates the problem of letting animals go in a different environment. They look like Red Foxes, who are natives of Britain and cause farmers with sheep or free-range chickens a lot of grief. I note those sheepdogs normally protect chickens - we could do with some over here, then the foxes would have to revert to their natural diet of rabbits.

It's a really cool solution to the problem! The foxes are deterred from coming (wonder what harm they cause on the mainland, where there probably ought to be some more of these dogs.) The penguins can stay put because the actual habitat is not threatened, as it all too often is

Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 2 years ago

wonderful,thank you for sharing 16/7

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Lynn C.
Lynn C.2 years ago

TY

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga2 years ago

wonderful

Carolyn Holmes
Carolyn Holmes2 years ago

Lovely story, what a wonderfully balanced way of dealing with the problem.

John W.
.2 years ago

What a clever idea :-)

Aileen P.
Aileen P.2 years ago

I agree with Charlene.

JO MUNZ
JO MUNZ2 years ago

THANK GOD FOR THE SHEEPDOG BODYGUARDS -- THEY'RE THE BEST! I LOVE PENGUINS -- THANK YOU TO THE PEOPLE WHO ORCHESTRATED THIS RESCUE OF THE LITTLE PENGUINS -- THANK YOU TO THE MAREMMA SHEEPDOGS -- YOU'RE ALL FANTASTIC!