Middle Island (Warrnambool)
Middle Island is a small (c. 2 ha), rocky island lying close to the shore of south-western Victoria, Australia, in Stingray Bay next to the city of Warrnambool. It is a wildlife sanctuary that is home to breeding colonies of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) and short-tailed shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris). It is closed to general public access because of the low penguin population.
Because of the proximity of the island to the coast, it is accessible at low tide to predators such as foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and stray dogs. As a result, the penguin colony declined to a low of ten breeding pairs by 2005. In 2006 an attempt began to protect the birds from foxes by the use of Maremma Sheepdogs trained to protect penguins rather than sheep and to act as a deterrent to foxes. The dogs, who work in pairs, spend five or six days a week on the island during the breeding season from October to March. Since then the penguin population has been increasing and by 2016 had reached nearly two hundred. In 2017, when high tides and bad weather prevented the dogs from being taken to the island, as many as 140 penguins were killed by foxes. Numbers have since rebounded, and the project inspired a similar effort that began in late 2020 to protect newly released eastern barred bandicoots at Werribee Open Range Zoo by having the dogs mind a flock of sheep.
- Donnison, Jon (14 December 2015). "The dogs that protect little penguins". BBC News. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
- "Middle Island Maremma Project". Visit Warrnambool. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "Middle Island Maremma Project". Warrnambool City Council. Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- Ramzy, Austin (3 November 2015). "Australia Deploys Sheepdogs to Help a Penguin Colony Back From the Brink". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
- Peacock, Sue (10 August 2017). "Penguins killed in fox attack on Victorian island made famous by Oddball movie". ABC News. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- Nobel, Emma (16 October 2019). "Maremma sheepdog and little penguin protector retires after nine years on Middle Island". ABC News. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
- Mannix, Liam (16 December 2020). "A flock of sheep, two giant dogs, and a bunch of bandicoots - an unusual solution to extinction?". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 January 2021.