The Middle Island Maremma Project began in 2006 when there was a sharp decline in the colony size of Little Penguins on Middle Island due to fox predation. Maremma Guardian dogs were trained and placed on Middle Island to protect the penguins from foxes during the breeding season. The Project has been a huge success, with no evidence of fox attacks since the beginning of the Project and a steady increase in penguin colony size from fewer than 10 birds in 2005 to an estimated peak number of 180 penguins in 2013.
Middle Island has been closed to the public since 2006 to protect penguin burrows from human trampling which can harm penguins, penguin chicks and eggs. The closure of the Island has contributed to the huge increase in penguin colony size. Over summer each year, people who want to visit Middle Island can come along to our “Meet the Maremma Tours” and experience the Project firsthand.
Our two Maremma Guardian dogs, Eudy and Tula (sisters), spend five days per week on Middle Island during the breeding season and on their days off they live at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, interacting with visitors and helping to educate people about environmental conservation. For more information on education programs, the Maremma Guardian dogs and tourism activities over summer, please visit the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village website or the Warrnambool Penguins website
The Project is widely recognised as an innovative world-first and has received a number of awards and attracted huge media attention. Highlights include the filming of multi-million dollar movie production “Oddball” based on the Project and starring Shane Jacobson (due for release in 2015), filming of documentary by Erebus Productions (viewed by 1.5 million people in Italy), a feature documentary on ABC’s Catalyst and receiving the 2010 Australian Government Coastcare Award.
The Project has been made possible thanks to support from many businesses, organisations and volunteers since it began in 2006. It is currently joint-funded by Warrnambool City Council, Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group and Deakin University. Over six thousand volunteer hours have been contributed to the project in activities such as penguin monitoring, care and training of Maremma Guardian dogs, building of infrastructure on the Island and fox control. If you want to help support the Middle Island Maremma Project please contact Peter Abbott at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village on 5559 4600. If you are interested in volunteering in the penguin monitoring program, please visit the Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group website.
Little Penguin Facts
The Little Penguin, the smallest of the penguin species, stands 40cm tall and weighs about 1kg. They can swim up to 8km/hr and dive as deep as 50m.
Little Penguins live mostly in the ocean, using land to molt feathers and to breed. Penguins breed from around 3 years of age, digging nesting burrows and using artificial nesting boxes to raise their young from August to February.