Italian sheepdogs become little penguin protectors
Author: Laura Chalk
Mezzo and Isola are two fluffy white puppies about to undergo training that will enable them to be fox-fighting penguin protectors.
Their names translate to Middle and Island, an island off the coast of south-west Victoria that is home to the colony of little penguins.
A single fox sneaking on to the island can kill hundreds of the birds, which was a huge problem before the dogs were introduced by Warrnambool Council in 2006. Maremmas, the Italian sheepdogs known for their guarding skills and fierce loyalty, deter foxes through their strong scent, loud bark and fast gait.
The scheme has been a huge success, bolstering penguin numbers through a sustainable conservation method – when one pair of dogs retire, they are replaced by fully-trained newcomers, like Mezzo and Isola.
The project ensures lethal measures – such as killing the foxes through traps or bait – don’t need to be taken, while preserving a species and ensuring a vulnerable ecosystem is maintained.
- Find out how your local council protects threatened species, and suggest a sustainable method such as the Maremma project.
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