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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

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6:35AM PDT on Aug 15, 2013

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

3:56AM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

wonderful,thank you for sharing 16/7

7:52AM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

11:22AM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

TY

12:10AM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

wonderful

3:48PM PDT on Jun 22, 2013

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

1:37AM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

What a clever idea :-)

1:43AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

I agree with Charlene.

3:39PM PDT on Jun 11, 2013

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!

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