Among the coasts of Warrnambool city in Australia sits a small island by the name of Middle Island. This tiny piece of land is home to some very special inhabitants, and their protection is thanks to an unlikely hero.
Middle Island is the only place in Australia where one can find the smallest penguin species in the world—the little penguin, which stands just 35 centimeters tall. For years, these birds have been at risk due to their inability to protect themselves against foxes who would use a short window during the year when a tidal causeway allowed access to Middle Island from the mainland.
Enter Swampy Marsh—a chicken farmer with no formal conservation background but plenty of experience with keeping chickens safe from foxes. Marsh used his knowledge and Maremma dogs as guardians for his flock and figured that since little penguins were similarly defenseless against predators, this same protection would work for them too.
In 2006, Warrnambool city council gave Marsh permission to bring his dog Oddball over to guard Middle Island and it worked like a charm! The deep basso barks of these pooches were enough to scare away any potential attackers, and soon after Oddball’s role was professionalized with the creation of The Middle Island Project which bred Maremma dogs specifically designed for protecting this area.
Thanks to Eudy and Tula (the first two Mamemma dogs), not one attack happened between 2006-2017 while the population grew from zero up to 180 birds! These furry protectors don’t actually attack foxes; they simply hang out on the island while Conservationists make sure they’re taken care of with food, water, shade, and company every now and then.
It’s stories like this that remind us how unique our natural world is—and how powerful community efforts can be when everyone joins together for a common cause! From chicken farmers to Conservationists and even Maremma Dogs—Middle Island has become an inspiring example of what people are capable of when they work together towards something bigger than themselves.
Sources: Good News Network