Middle Island Penguins
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.
In September 2015, the movie Oddball was release, documenting the Maremma’s adventures on Middle Island.