WARRNAMBOOL’S popular Maremma guard dogs are on leave from guard duties while their charges, the Little Penguins, head out to Bass Strait for the winter.
Yesterday, five-year-old dogs Eudi and Tula left Middle Island for an extended break.
Warrnambool City tourism services manager Peter Abbott said the dogs would spend the next month at a Grassmere farm before heading to Flagstaff Hill.
“They are coming off the Island for the end of summer,” Mr Abbott said. “They are going to Doug and Marcelle Maclean’s farm at Grassmere. They will be there for all of April and then they will go to Flagstaff Hill in one of the farm paddocks to look after the chooks and sheep.”
Mr Abbott said the penguins had left Middle Island and would return in about seven months.
“They stay out in Bass Strait and they will start to come back around October to breed,” he said.
The Maremmas usually spend about six months on Middle Island from October-March, depending on when the penguins return. “It’s a unique program,” Mr Abbott said.
“The main thing is we’re stopping the foxes getting across which gives the penguins a chance.
“Since 2006 there has never been a penguin taken or killed by a fox. Before that it was an annual event.”
The colony is now thriving under the watchful eyes of Eudy and Tula.
Mr Abbott said while the dogs are at Flagstaff Hill they will be a part of a school program for students focusing on sustainability and extinction.