To protect the remaining birds from the predators, the City Council closed the island and brought in—yes, a dog. But not an ordinary dog. They brought in a Maremma for a trial period of four to six weeks during the breeding season. Oddball, the Maremma, is a very special dog.
A Maremma is a dog bred in Italy for centuries to guard livestock, especially large flocks of chickens and sheep. They are large dogs with a natural instinct to herd and protect animals in their charge from predators. So while the local dogs might enjoy munching on penguin, the Maremma is genetically programmed to protect them.
Allan Marsh, the owner of the dog, has used Maremma dogs to protect his chickens and hasn’t lost a single one while the dogs served as shepherds. He is lending the dog at no charge and has offered to train a puppy to be used on the island if the trial is successful.
Maremmas come with a 2000-year genetic background of guarding livestock. Although they are intelligent, courageous, and loyal, they are not recommended as family pets. They have a distrust of strangers and need to be working to keep them happy.
The number of penguins has tripled after the trial period of placing Oddball, the Maremma guard dog, on the island, according to this recent story from the Standard. Seventy penguins and about 20 chicks have been counted on the island.
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