In 2000, what was once a thriving colony of Little Penguins – the (aptly named) smallest species of penguin – had been reduced to just four pairs. The colony on Middle Island, which sits off the southern coast of Australia, had a problem: the red fox, a species that was introduced from the mainland by colonists. They were wiping out the penguins as they attempted to mate and raise chicks, two of the only reasons they spend time on land.
The Maremma Project began in 2006 with a simple idea: introduce a pair of trained dogs to the island that would keep the foxes away from the penguins as they hatched and raised their young.
During breeding season, the sisters, Eudy and Tula, spend five days a week on the island on protection duty and their days off at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, where they help educate visitors about environmental conservation. Visitors are allowed to view the penguins from offshore, but the island itself is off limits.
Between 2006 and 2013 there was not a single successful fox attack, and the Little Penguin population increased to nearly 200, making the Maremma Project a huge success – one that has won praise and awards from the environmental community around the world. There’s even a movie inspired by the project:
h/t: NZ Herald