Dogs Protecting Penguins in Australia Inspires Hit Movie
Entertainment| | By Madeleine Richards
When a colony of endangered penguins in Australia faced an imposing threat, one farmer came up with a novel way to protect them, and the story has now been turned into a hit film.
The problem arose in Middle Island, southern Australia, when wild foxes ravaged a colony of little penguins (originally called fairy penguins). These penguins, the world’s smallest species, stand on average about 35cm tall. Peter Abbott, from the Penguin Preservation Project, attests to the massacre of the tiny penguins, “In our biggest bird kill, we found 360 birds killed over about two nights. Foxes are thrill killers. They’ll kill anything they can find.”
Middle Island is a very rugged and remote place that was once safe for little penguins. But when the sea’s current led to sand build-up, it became possible for foxes to walk over to Middle Island in low tide. More and more foxes moved to the area to feast upon the helpless penguins. Then, farmer Swampy Marsh (yes that’s really his name) came up with a plan. He sent one of his Maremma dogs, used commonly in Australia to protect chicken and sheep, to aid the little penguins.
Since that first dog, named Oddball, was introduced, no penguins have been killed.
“We immediately saw a change in the pattern of the foxes,” said Abbott. ” Putting a dog on the island changed the hierarchy. The foxes can hear the dogs barking, they can smell them, so they go somewhere else.”
Now, it has been 10 years since Oddball’s arrival, but his legacy continues. Six dogs have succeeded him, including the current duo, Eudy and Tula, named after the scientific term for little penguins, Eudyptula. Oddball became so famous that a movie has now been made about him. The movie Oddball has grossed $8 million in Australia and is now going global, and tourism to Middle Island has shot up significantly.
It just goes to show dogs aren’t just man’s best friend, but little penguins’ too.
Watch the trailer for the film here.