Together with her sister Eudy, a Maremma sheepdog named Tula has been serving as the guardian of the Middle Island penguin colony in Warrnambool, Australia, since she was two years old. Now, after eight years of protecting the seabirds, Tula is ready for a more relaxed life.
Foxes Wipe Out Penguin Colony
Tula and Eudy are part of the Middle Island Maremma Project, which started in 2006. The Warrnambool City Council initiated it after foxes nearly wiped out the little penguins on the island.
In 1999, there were approximately 600 little penguins there. But come 2005, their population plummeted to fewer than ten because of the foxes. Since the introduction of the Maremma sheepdogs, though, the number of seabirds on Middle Island has been steadily climbing.
The sheepdogs befriend the penguins and guard them against predators such as foxes. These wild animals are more commonly seen on the seashore of Warrnambool, but they can walk right up to Middle Island during the low tide.
The fluffy dogs may be heart-meltingly cute, but their bark is fearsome to predators. Thanks to the sheepdogs’ hard work, hundreds of little penguin feet were soon pitter-pattering on the Victoria island.
Unfortunately, their population was almost obliterated once more in August 2017 when inclement weather kept the sheepdogs away from Middle Island. The foxes took advantage of the situation to devour 140 little penguins.
However, everything is back on track again, even with Tula’s retirement. With her advanced age came arthritis, making it incredibly difficult for the canine to climb to the top of Middle Island and fulfill her duty.
A Maremma pup named Mezzo is set to replace Tula. In the meantime, her sister Eudy will continue her work for one more season.
However, as the breed thrives on activity, Tula will not be spending the rest of her days just lounging under the sun. She’ll still work as a guard dog, although the Maremma will be watching over farm chickens this time.
Happy retirement, Tula! 🐶💕After protecting Middle Island's little penguin colony for almost a decade, Maremma Sheepdog Tula is hanging up her leash.
Posted by ABC Darwin on Thursday, October 17, 2019
The pooch will also be using her extensive experience to help train other sheepdogs for the Middle Island Maremma Project of protecting penguins. For now, though, she will be enjoying her delicious retirement cake.