Penguins' Unlikely Savior: Dogs
Maremma sheepdogs help restore population to Australia island
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2013 7:23 PM CDT
Updated Jun 8, 2013 7:00 PM CDT
File photo of a two-week-old Little Penguin at the Cincinnati Zoo.   (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

(Newser) – Things got so bad for the penguins on Australia's Middle Island that one researcher counted all of four just seven years ago, down from a peak of 1,500. The problem, as the New Zealand Herald explains, is that red foxes acquired a taste for the Little Penguins and would swim over from the mainland at low tide. Trapping didn't work. In fact, nothing stopped the foxes—until conservationists hit upon the idea of putting two sheepdogs on the island.

"Having a $200 dog that only needs a pat on the head and a handful of dried food each day is a real cost-effective way to do it," says a local farmer. The skittish penguins got used to the two Maremmas, and the dogs in turn have kept the penguins safe from all predators. The population is now back up to 200 or so and gradually increasing. Things have gone so well that Maremmas are now guarding gannets at nearby Point Danger, with similar results, notes LiveScience.

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Showing 3 of 27 comments
Pygmy_Rat
Jun 9, 2013 3:45 AM CDT
" Things got so bad for the penguins on Australia's Middle Island that one researcher counted all of four just seven years ago, down from a peak of 1,500 .... The population is now back up to 200 or so and gradually increasing." From four to 200, then some more .... Doesn't this sound like in-breeding to you? I know that it does, to me! In which case, these in-breds will just in-breed themselves to extinction!
heyyouyou
Jun 8, 2013 9:40 PM CDT
Better than UN peacekeepers.
boxcar
Jun 7, 2013 10:55 PM CDT
Hey, maybe we should get a clue, put Guard Dogs in all our school yards to ward off crazed predators or at least be a first line of defense. Oh, a shooter would take out the dogs? He'd only get one shot off on a dog that wore a Claymore Mine for a vest that was only activated by shock of a bullet.