We have become far too comfortable with animals disappearing. And the very least, being put on the facing extinction list. Many of those animals disappear from the scene without much attention. However, some little penguins get the attention they require.
Before the turn-of-the-century, Middle Island was the home of thousands of little penguins. Half of the penguins were gone by the time 2000 came around. Only four penguins remained by the year 2005. Sadly, those penguins had no defense against the European red fox. The red fox had easy access to the island and penguins every time there was a low tide.
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It was a chicken farmer who had the right idea of what they could do to help the penguins. Alan Marsh suggested that a type of herding dog could protect the penguins.
Maremma sheepdogs are known for protecting the animals under their care. They decided to save the penguins from the daily fox invasions by putting the sheepdogs with them on the island. Maremma sheepdogs have been around for thousands of years. They are known for their thick white coats, fluffy tails, and their fearlessness.
After the Warrnambool City Council authorized this idea, they started a one-month trial. They were surprised with how well it worked. Many breeds of sheepdogs will intimidate the animals into protecting them. However, the Maremma sheepdogs form bonds with the animals. In this case, the sheepdogs became a part of the penguin flock. 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 visit the island every year during the breeding season. He thrives on having a job to do and not for sole use as a pet.