There are 2 new furry guardians on Warrnambool’s Middle Island (Australia). The Maremma puppies aren’t going to be standing sentry over sheep or goats – but a colony of penguins! In 2005, penguin numbers on the island fell to a low of 4 birds. Foxes had been killing them in great numbers and leaving tracks all over the island. Then researchers implemented the “Maremma Guard Dog Project”, and penguin population started to slowly rise again. Fox tracks started to disappear. The program was not perfect though, at one point the dogs were removed for accidentally killing 10 penguins.
Photo: Angela Milne
This year scientists said that about 51 penguins returned to Middle Island during breeding season. Obviously this program is a success! The new Meremma puppies spend time on the island being mentored by an older Maremma who has been doing this job for quite a while. The dog trainer on the project expects that they will be working full time when they are 6 months old.