Thursday, February 22, 2007

Penguin guard dogs to stay

MAREMMA guard dogs will protect Middle Island's penguin colony from extinction for another year, with the area to again be off-limits for visitors.

Warrnambool City Council last night deemed the initial four-week trial to ward off predators a success and will send the dogs back to the island in May.

The council also agreed to explore the trial's research possibilities, believing valuable data could be gained from the world-first initiative.

``This is potentially a very significant project. I think we might not realise its significance for Victoria, Australia and the world,'' Cr Jacinta Ermacora told the council. The island's fairy penguin population has fallen to less than 100 in recent
years due to foxes and dogs.

Short-tailed shearwater numbers have similarly been impacted by the unwanted predators.

A report prepared for the council found the dog's presence during its 27-day stay on the island late last year deterred foxes, while having minimal impact on the penguins.

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