Middle Island is home to colonies of Little Penguins, Short-tailed Shearwaters and Black Cormorants. The penguin colony is particularly vulnerable to fox and dog attack and numbers declined from over 600 birds to less than 10 birds in 2005.
Since 2006, trained Maremma guardian dogs have been successfully guarding Middle Island’s wildlife. Since then the Little Penguin colony has increased and by 2016 the population was nearly 200 birds.
Our volunteers do the scientific monitoring of the Middle Island Little Penguin colony to measure the population and health of these amazing marine birds. Every year we volunteer hundreds of hours as well as fundraising to pay for equipment, materials and for skilled management of the project. Some of our volunteers do specialist training in animal handling and microchipping. This work is at the same skilled level as that done at Phillip Island, Australia’s most famous Little Penguin hotspot. Many Deakin University marine biology students become our members and learn practical skills through this project. For some, this has led to fulltime jobs working in nature conservation.
The Middle Island Project is overseen by the Middle Island Project Working Group made up of representatives from Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare, Warrnambool City Council, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Deakin University and Parks Victoria. Coastcare Landcare engages a contractor to help coordinate our Middle Island volunteers and to compile the data we collect on penguin population and health. For several years Nature Glenelg Trust has been the contractor and they have generously subsidised the cost of their professional services.
The True Oddball Story
Dave Williams was working for Swampy Marsh, a local free range chicken farmer. Dave told Swampy about the foxes killing penguins on Middle Island and Swampy suggested using Maremma guardian dogs. Warrnambool City Council (the Middle Island land manager) and State Government environment agencies agreed to run a trial and invited Coastcare Landcare to support it. Dave, as one of our members, worked with Swampy’s dog, Oddball on the successful trial. We continue this great work today.