Meet the Maremmas
The Meet the Maremma Tour is a fun, educational and interactive experience - a Warrnambool Summer Must for all ages! You will learn about Little Penguins, the importance of conserving them and how this world first conservation project uses Maremma dogs to protect the Middle Island birds from foxes. You'll even get a chance to pose for a photo in front of Middle Island with one of these special dogs.
By attending the tour, you are supporting the ongoing success of the Middle Island Penguin Project. All funds from the tours go towards the care of the Middle Island Maremma dogs.
Things to Note
- You will be learning about the unique Middle Island Penguin Project that uses Maremma’s to help protect the Little Penguins from predators like foxes.
- You need to wear the safety equipment provided to you – this includes a Hi-Vis Vest.
- You need to listen to the tour guide / dog handler who will tell you how and when to approach the maremma.
- Tour is appropriate for all ages.
- Bookings Essential - tours sell out quickly!
- Tours do not venture onto Middle Island, this is a protected island.
- Please share your Meet the Maremma photos with us using @IAMWARRNAMBOOL #IAMWARRNAMBOOL
Middle Island is located just off the Warrnambool foreshore and has a unique tale to tell.
Home to a colony of Little Penguins for many years in early 2005 a sharp decline in numbers was noted and it is believed at this time only 10 Little Penguins remained. Due to the close proximity of the island to the shore with the shifting sands over the years foxes began making their way to the island at low tide and devastated the Little Penguin colony.
Middle Island was closed to the public in 2006 to protect penguin burrows from human trampling which can also harm penguins, penguin chicks and eggs. The closure of the Island has helped contribute to the increase in penguin colony size, but not so much as the acclaimed Maremma Project.
A local chicken farmer, Swampy Marsh, suggested Maremma guardian dogs could be used to protect the penguins. Swampy had successfully used Maremmas to help protect his free range chickens.
In a world-first, Maremma’s were trained and placed on Middle Island to protect the penguins from foxes during the breeding season. The project has been a huge success, with no evidence of fox attacks since the beginning of the Project and a steady increase in penguin colony size to an estimated 180 penguins in 2013.
Over summer each year, people can visit Middle Island on a pre booked “Meet the Maremma Tour” and experience the project firsthand.
Middle Island Maremma Project
A world first use of Maremma dogs to protect native fauna has been successful in saving the Warrnambool Little Penguin colony.
In the early 2000's there was a thriving Little Penguin colony on Middle Island. Over a number of years foxes began invading the island. This resulted in many penguin kills with one night having over 180 dead penguins found on the island. By 2005 less than 10 birds were counted. Something different had to be done!!
In 2006 a local chicken farmer (Swampy Marsh) suggested that Maremma dods be trialled in protecting penguins from foxes. This trial was successful and ever since the summer of 2006 there has been Maremma guardian dogs on Middle Island, and most importanly no recorded fox kills.
The population is recovering so that we now estimated 180 Little Penguins are returning to Middle Island each breeding season.
Warrnambool is proud to be involved in the making of 'Oddball' a movie based on the true story of Oddball the Maremma who was the first guardian for the Middle Island penquin population. Middle Island is situated just off the Warrnambool coast and visitors can take part in tours to the island over the summer period.
To read more about this revolutionary environmental program head and to joing the Oddball Club, visit the Warrnambool Penguins website.