Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Colony of Fairy Penguins Given Protection by Two Sheepdogs

Photo via marcmc

Herding dogs have been used for centuries by man to help him keep his flocks together while grazing and to keep predators at bay so none of their flock was eaten by wolves, foxes or other carnivores. One or two good herding dogs were worth 15-20 good men. The dogs were swifter, their senses keener, they were cheaper to “hire”, they reproduced themselves faster, the wages never went up generation to generation and their undying love and loyalty was yours until their dying day.

Unfortunately, technology came along forcing these wonderful herding animals into the category of “household pet” instead of “working animal” which is their true nature. Working dogs enjoy working; not, working to death as some would believe but having some work to accomplish.

Bored herding dogs with no access to work have been known to start “herding” the children in the household or anything within sight that moves (other pets, people on the sidewalk). Humans always think it quite cute; but, the poor dog is so bored, the statement so clear – “Give me a job!”

There have been a few cases where herding dogs have been employed to do what they do best – herd. Border collies have been employed to herd ducks at airports. The collies harass; but, do not harm, the birds until they leave that location. Not one single life is lost this way – the birds just find a different place to call home.

Finally science has caught up with what all us barefoot, aging, hippie types (that’s me!!) have known all along – natural is better.

A colony of fairy penguins on Warrnambool’s Middle Island off the south coast of Australia has been nearly devastated by raids by foxes and wild dogs. (Following is a 30-sec. video of fairy penguins in a zoo.)

In this instance, the working dog selected for the dog is a guard dog. Maremma sheepdogs have been employed to guard the colony of fairy penguins. The Maremma is an Italian breed of sheepdog that has the ability to bond with the flock or herd of animals it is protecting. They will attack anything that threatens one of “their own”. These dogs have done such a wonderful job at guarding this colony that conservationists are now wondering what other threatened animals could benefit from this natural type of interference.

Normally, I don’t agree with interfering with nature; but, I’d rather see the interference being two sheepdogs than something that would try to reduce other wildlife in an effort to save the penguins.

“We're now starting to see some great results,” said Middle Island Maremma Project manager Ian Fitzgibbons. “We've had our best penguin count since we began in 2006 with over 80 birds counted in one night and I think we have about 26 chicks on the island too.”

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