When foxes discovered this small Australian island and its little penguin inhabitants, they nearly wiped the colony out. But a farmer came up with a novel way to protect the birds.
The problem first became apparent in the year 2000 when the sea’s natural current led to increased sand build-up in the area. As a result, the local fox population on this island in Australia called Middle Island started to grow as there was an easy source of food around.
The penguins – the world’s smallest actually – faced being wiped out until a chicken farmer by the name Swampy Marsh (wow) came up with a plan. He suggested sending one of his Maremma dogs to protect the birds.
The dog, the first of several to be used on Middle Island, was called Oddball – and Oddball made quite an impact. Amazingly, since Oddball and his four-legged successors were introduced 10 years ago, there has not been a single penguin killed by a fox on Middle Island.
By now, the fairy penguin population has gone back up to almost 200.
The current dogs patrolling Middle Island are Eudy and Tula, named after the scientific term for the fairy penguin: Eudyptula.
The dogs operate in penguin breeding season, usually from October to March, when they spend five or six days a week on the island.
The project has been such a success that a movie called Oddball has been made about it.