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Anne Wallis, Kylie Gaston, John Sutherland, AmandaPeucker and Craig Whiteford

An oddball idea celebrates 10 years

News Article Date: 
Thursday, 20 July 2017

From fewer than 10 penguins in 2005 to a growing colony of 182, major national and international media attention, a sharp increase in visitation to Warrnambool and the multi-million dollar feature film Oddball, the Middle Island Project has been a monumental success.

The project is celebrating its 10 year anniversary, having been officially formed in 2007 following a trial in 2006.

The project was set up in response to 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.

There has been no evidence of foxes on the island since the introduction of the maremma dogs.

Warrnambool Mayor Kylie Gaston said that since the beginning of the project the penguin population has shown slow, but steady growth, fox predation has been brought under control and human impacts on the island have been better managed.

“The aim of the Middle Island Project was and continues to be to conserve and regrow our Little Penguin colony and that goal is certainly being achieved,” she said.

“The Warrnambool community has willingly contributed to this project’s success by eagerly volunteering to participate in the penguin monitoring, accepting the closed access to Middle Island, through their generous donations and their understanding of the significance and importance of this project.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of visitors to the city as a direct consequence of the project and the vastly ranging media attention that has put Warrnambool in the spotlight. 

“Significant goals have been achieved for our Little Penguin colony and the island has again been established as a safe haven. 

“I sincerely thank all who have been involved at all stages of the project.”

The use of maremma dogs has set a precedent, known academically as the “Warrnambool method” which is being adopted by other groups to help protect endangered wildlife.

To find out more about the Middle Island Project, visit www.warrnamboolpenguins.com.au.

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