Sheepdogs have been guarding sheep in the British Isles for hundreds of years. They are so good at their job that their breed is now being used to guard other species, species who need a helping hand of protection. Sheepdogs are now using their hard-wired instincts to protect a colony of fairy penguins, and they are doing an extremely good job of it. The sheepdogs are doing such a good job of protecting this sensitive colony, that many conservationists are beginning to look at what other species this amazing breed of dog can also protect.
Foxes and wild dogs have cut a swath of destruction through a colon of fairy penguins that live on a small island off the coast of Australia called Warrnambool’s Middle Island. That swath of destruction was severely scaled down though when two sheepdogs were put on the island to protect them. The sheepdogs are actually called Maremmas, and are an Italian breed of sheepdog that will bond with flocks and herds to protect them.
Thanks to the sheepdogs, the penguin count has been its best since they started counting the flock in 2006. Researchers were able to count over 80 birds in one night, with 26 chicks also on the island.
This experiment has proven to be highly successful and many conservationists are now looking at the effect the sheepdogs have had on the health of the penguins colony, and are hoping to apply it to other species.
As we get deeper in the extinction crisis that is affecting our planet, it seems that more and more conservationists and scientists are looking for outside the box thinking to solve some of the problems. Rather than using costly solutions to protect the penguins, or culling the predators as they do in British Columbia, Canada to protect the mountain caribou, conservationists are using a species that has protection hardwired within its genes to protect the birds. They can’t protect all of the penguins from predators, but they can protect most of them. This way the balance is restored and it is no longer a huge buffet for the wild dogs and foxes.