Penguin Protectors: The Maremma Project

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We can all agree that dogs are amazing. From their ability to detect illness, to their service to those with disabilities. Now man's best friend is helping fellow animals, some pretty cute penguins to be exact, from disappearing from Middle Island in Austrailia.

The coasts of New Zealand and South Australia are home to colonies of Fairy Penguins also known as Little Penguins. They are the smallest penguin species and stand just 30 - 40 cm. Every year from August to February, they breed and raise their young. During this time foxes on the island took advantage and hunted the small birds. The penguins' numbers dwindled to just 10 on the island at one point, which is where our courageous canines come in.

The Maremma Sheepdog has its origins in central Italy where it was bred as a guard dog for sheep from wolves. They are still very prevalent in Italy, but have since gained popularity in the United States, Australia, and Canada as livestock guardian dogs. The dogs usually work in small groups and use dissuasion to deter predators, rarely using physical combat.

In 2006 the penguins on Middle Island were in such a state of decline that the city council had to do something. Heavy tourist traffic was destroying nesting sites, and local foxes were picking off the penguins at alarming rates. A local farmer who used Maremma's for his poultry farm suggested using the animals to deter foxes. After acquiring reports and data from local agencies a 4 week trial period was approved. The trial extended to 12 months and the Middle Island Maremma project was born.

Currently, two dogs patrol the Island, deterring foxes, five days a week. Their names are Eudy and Tula and are sisters. In their off time they live in a local village promoting environmental conservation and educating people. Read more   about them and see how you can help.

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