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Maremma handler Zoe Robertson with (L-R) Isola, Tula, Mezzo and Eudy

Mezzo joins veteran Maremmas for first penguin count

News Article Date: 
Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Maremma guardian dogs have returned to Middle Island for the first penguin count of the season, with new recruit Mezzo in tow.
 
The one year old dog, along with younger Maremma Isola, are expected to eventually take the mantle of Middle Island’s official penguin protectors from long-time guardians Eudy and Tula, who are approaching retirement.
 
Middle Island Project Coordinator Dr Trish Corbett said that Mezzo was showing great aptitude for penguin protecting.
 
“Mezzo has been so impressive in his training that it looks like he will be able to start work earlier than expected,” she said.
 
“We will run trials on the island with both Mezzo and Isola this season before deciding when they are ready to become fully-fledged penguin protectors.
 
“We are very happy with the progress Isola is making too. She is three months younger than Mezzo and still very much a pup so will need a little longer before she can stay overnight on the island. ”
 
Dr Corbett said that 18 penguins were recorded as part of the count on October 28, which indicated a current breeding population of 32 on the island. The penguins have only just started to arrive for the season and the number of penguins breeding will usually peak around the last week in December. 
 
“It’s early in the breeding season, but the numbers are encouraging, with more penguins arriving than this time last year. We are currently estimating a total population of between 70 and 100 penguins” she said.
 
“The fox attack in 2017 greatly reduced the local penguin population, but our colony has faced worse odds than this before and is already showing signs of recovery.”
 
Anyone who would like to see a Maremma dog up close while learning about this world first conservation program is encouraged to book a Meet the Maremma Experience. Bookings for the 2018/2019 season are now open.
 
A new format was introduced last year with huge success.
 
The experience gives participants a hands-on insight into the fascinating world of penguin monitoring. They also get to meet, pat and take photos with an ambassador Maremma dog.
 
This interactive format saw 3200 people take part last summer, which was more than double the previous year’s numbers.
 
Warrnambool City Council Manager Visitor Economy David McMahon said that the sessions were a popular fixture on the city’s calendar.
 
“The Visitor Information Centre has been taking enquiries from eager customers for a number of months now, so it is with great pleasure we announce that bookings are now open,” he said.
 
“The Meet the Maremma Experience is a great way to learn more about Warrnambool’s Little Penguin colony and the work that goes into protecting it while ensuring that Middle Island is preserved as a conservation site.”
 
Tours will run from December 2 until the Easter school holidays.
 
Bookings can be made at www.iamwarrnambool.com.au or via the Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre on 1800 556 111.
 
All profits from the tours go towards the care of the Middle Island Maremma dogs.

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