The penguin population on Warrnambool's Middle Island in Australia had gone from
2000 a few years ago to only 29. The penguins had fallen prey to the local foxes
and wild dogs in the area. "The penguins are part of the Warrnambool community and
everyone feels pretty strongly about them," said Ian Fitzgibbon, Warrnambool City
Council Environment Officer.
Victorian chicken farmer, Allan "Swampy" Marsh loved the penguins too, and devised
a plan to help. Marsh's four Maremma Sheepdogs had been guarding his chickens for more
than a decade. He believed that they could do the same for the penguins. Once Marsh
convinced the "Wildlife Wallies" that the Maremma Sheepdogs were the right choice,
Marsh selected Oddball to handle the job.
The City Council closed Middle Island to the public during the trial for fear that
the dog might attack people, as this breed is very territorial and wary of strangers.
Oddball's first encounter with the penguins resulted in a peck on the nose, but
they soon learned to co-habitat, with Oddball sleeping only a few feet from the
penguin's burrows. Marsh was allowed to camp on the island to monitor the progress.
Oddball's stint as the guardian of the penguins was initially a success. By the
end of the month, the number of penguins had tripled with 70 penguins and 20 chicks
"There is global interest in this little trial," according to Regional Biodiversity
Manager Craig Whiteford. He feels that this "guardian concept" could be used to
protect shearwater, gannet and other penguin colonies along the coast. The Council
along with the Department of Sustainability and Environment are now considering
extending the trial to a year and using two recently acquired Maremma puppies.