We’ve written about the valuable work Maremmas have done at Middle island protecting Penguins before, but now the efforts have been doubled by adding some specially trained Collies to the work.
Middle Island, which is just off the southern coast of Victoria has a problem with foxes predating a colony of Penguins. Then, for the first time, Maremmas (a dog breed usually guarding sheep, chickens and other livestock) had been used to protect a native species in Australia. The idea was the brain-child of a farmer called ‘Swampy Marsh’ who had been using Maremmas to protect chickens. This all began around 10 years ago and you may have seen the heartwarming movie ‘Oddball’ which describes the story. The penguin protection project has not gone without its difficulties but bird numbers jumped from a meager ‘10’ to ‘180 plus’, with the help of the Mareemas. Other efforts to help the plight of the penguin included increasing awareness by offering small tours where people could be educated about the work being conducted on Middle Island. Participants would find out more about the importance of protecting seabirds and have the chance for a photo opportunity with a Mareema.
However in 2017, when the dogs were removed due to a storm a fox swam to the island and killed 140 penguins. Other dogs may have been independently responsible for the loss of some numbers over the years but the foxes leave a tell-tale type bite mark to the penguins neck. So now 2 fabulous sniffer Border Collies have been employed to help the effort with their ‘fox fighting’ abilities. The Collies locate fox dens for a handler by alerting the human to fox scat.
Now the penguins will be able to nest safely once more.
Leah & Angela O’Meara
Hound Dog Day Care (Specialists in Dog Minding & Dog Boarding, Pet Sitting Brisbane & Doggy Day Cares Brisbane)