These Are The Dogs That Protect Penguins
Once upon a time, a colony of penguins lived happily ever after on a small Australian island. That is, until the foxes learned of the penguin’s whereabouts. They ravaged their small island, and nearly wiped the colony out. That’s when a farmer came up with an ingenious way to protect the birds…
Middle Island is a beautiful island off the coast of southern Victoria. It his home to the world’s most smallest penguins. Standing at just 30-40cm tall, they are probably the most adorable things you’ll ever set your eyes upon. Their colony flourished, but that was before the fox nation attacked.
Middle Island is separated from the mainland by a stretch of water measuring no more than 20 or 30m. At low tide, foxes can cross from the mainland to Middle Island just barely getting their paws wet. In 2005, in just a span of 2 nights, the foxes went on a killing spree and murdered 360 penguins. Their original population was about 800.
In the year 2000, the sea’s natural current led to increased sand buildup around the trench at Middle Island.
The little penguins faced being wiped out on Middle Island until a chicken farmer came up with a plan. He was to use one of his Maremma dogs to protect the birds. Dogs are often used to protect chickens, goats and sheep in Australia.
The first dog sent toe Middle Island, was called Oddball.
“Leading up to when the dog went on the island, every morning we’d find fox prints on the beach. Putting a dog on the island changed the hierarchy. The foxes can hear the dogs barking, they can smell them so they go somewhere else.” – Peter Abbott from the Penguin Preservation Project
Since Oddball and his four-legged friends were introduced 10 years ago, there has not been a single penguin killed by a fox on Middle Island.
The penguin population has gone up from about 8 penguins, to 200. The dogs operate during the penguin’s breeding season that spans from October to March. They spend five or six days guarding them on their island. Even when the dogs aren’t there, their scent is enough to keep away the evil foxes.
What happened on Middle Island has been such a success that it has turned into a movie called Oddball.
“It’s a great story. We’re trying to save a cute penguin with a couple of cute dogs but the movie has taken things to a different level,” says Abbott.
The film has already taken around 11m Australian dollars at the box office. It is in the process of going to a more global audience.