Maremma dogs and the Middle Island Project
The Middle Island Project began in 2006 following the sharp decline in the size of the colony of Little Penguins on Middle Island primarily driven by fox predation. Swampy Marsh’s suggestion to use Maremma dogs on Middle Island based on his success training them toguard his free-range chickens from predators was pursued.
In a world-first, Maremma dogs were trained and placed on Middle Island to protect the penguins from foxes during the penguin breeding season, when numbers of penguins on Middle Island are highest. Eudy and Tula were the first Maremma dogs trained as guardians specifically for the Middle Island Project. Together they protected the Little Penguins of Middle Island and saw the colony increase to an estimated 180 penguins during the 2016/2017 breeding season. With Eudy and Tula guarding the island, there was no evidence of fox attacks between 2006 and 2017.
To this day, while the Maremma dog have been on Middle Island, there has been no evidence of fox attacks. However, in 2017, the Little Penguins arrive on Middle Island earlier than usual and prior to the Maremma dogsreturning to Middle Island for the 2017/18 breeding season. Unfortunately, foxes took advantage of the situation, crossing to the island and attacking Little Penguins. As soon as then guardians, Eudy and Tula, returned to Middle Island, the attacks stopped, highlighting the importance of their role. As a result of this event, the Maremma dogs are now taken to Middle Island year-round when possible, to protect any Little Penguins that arrive early and the other seabirds.
Eudy and Tula
Named after the scientific name of the Little Penguin, Eudyptula minor, Eudy and Tula guarded Middle Island from predators for 10 and 8 years respectively. Tula, the Lead Guardian, was truly dedicated to her work and was supported on Middle Island by her sister Eudy. Both of these two girls played an important role in training the younger generation of guardian dogs, through which their legacy lives on.
Eudy and Tula were honoured during an online tribute generously produced and aired by Fitzmedia Productions. You can view the tribute here.
The Current Team
As of October 2022, the Middle Island Project has a team of five Maremma dogs consisting of two education dogs and three guardian dogs.
As education dogs, Avis and Amor help people learn about environmental conservation and understand the type of dogs Maremmas are. Avis and Amor participate in our education program, offering participants the chance to take a photo with them. Find out more about this opportunity in the Education section.
Avis and Amor also spend some time at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum, visit their website to find out more information including planned dates they will be offsite.
Mezzo is our Lead Guardian, supported on Middle Island by Isola and Oberon. Our guardians enjoy doing their important work to protect the Little Penguins and other seabirds of Middle Island. They spend the majority of their time over on Middle Island during the Little Penguin breeding season (October to March), spending time at a farm when they are off duty.
As a livestock guardian breed, Maremma dogs have a strong natural instinct to work and protect. Even when our guardians are not on duty at Middle Island, they still want to work and so they protect the chickens at their farm.
Generally, Maremma dogs are not suited to suburban or small block locations. They are working dogs suited to rural and large block locations. As with all purchases of dogs, you should research a dog that suits your lifestyle and location.