Monday, January 22, 2007

'Oddball' idea protects island penguin population

After Warrnambool's once-flourishing penguin population was decimated by foxes and dogs until only 27 remained, Allan "Swampy" Marsh hatched a radical plan to save the birds.

His four maremma sheepdogs had been protecting his chickens against predators for a decade. He figured they could do the same for the penguins.

"The difficulty was trying to convince all the wildlife wallies to think outside the square," Mr Marsh said. "It's not an altruistic view of penguins or chooks but an ingrained sense of territory that makes maremma dogs work, and it is far stronger in these dogs than any other domesticated breed."

Oddball's stint as guardian of Middle Island's colony last month was a success.

At the end of the month, 70 pairs of happy feet were counted returning to the island. About 2000 penguins inhabited the island in the 1990s.

No comments: