A Maremma Sheepdog tasked with guarding the penguins and other rare birds of a Southern Australian island has retired. After eight years, Tula bids farewell to active duty.
By, 21 Oct 2019
One of two sheepdogs on the island, Tula has protected Middle Island’s penguin population for almost a decade.
The island, off the south coast 100 miles west of Melbourne is home to impressive colonies of Short-tailed Shearwater, Black-faced Cormorant and Little Penguin.
However, all has not been rosy. The introduction of foxes to the island in 1999 led to the near-elimination of the Little Penguin.
Writes the Middle Island Penguin Project on Facebook: “The Little Penguin population had been decimated by fox predation over the years, with an estimated 600 penguins in 1999 reduced to less than 10 by 2005.”
Introducing: Tula and Eudy
Since 2006 the Project has harnessed the protective capabilities of the Maremma guardian dog. Each trained specifically to keep watch for predators that endanger the birds of the island. Thanks to the presence of the dogs, the population of Little Penguins is now thought to be in the region of 100.
Siblings Tula and Eudy were taken on in 2011 and have served their island well.
“Her [Tula], along with her sister Eudy are the true heroes of the project and without them the project would not have been so successful,” wrote a spokesperson for the Project.
Last week 11-year-old Tula retired and was thanked for her efforts by all of those involved in the protection of Middle Island’s endangered fauna.
“We want to thank Tula so much for her tireless efforts,” the Project’s Facebook post reads. “Tula is much loved by the project staff, the Warrnambool community and the wider community of supporters of the project.
“She will remain a part of the project team and instead of protecting Middle Island, she will continue to protect chickens at a farm that the dogs rest at and help us continue to train the younger guardian dogs.
“Please join us in thanking Tula for being the best penguin guardian all these years!”