These adorable dogs protect endangered penguins, make your heart grow three sizes
Get ready for your cute-o-meter to explode: There is an endangered species called little penguins, and they have two fluffy sheepdog bodyguards that protect them from foxes while the penguins reproduce as fast as they can (the sheepdogs avert their eyes, naturally).
The little penguins on Southern Australia’s Middle Island, where the penguins go to mate, have been devastated by the red fox, an introduced species that likes snacking on penguins. In four years, the penguin population went from 700 to four. When the two Maremma sheepdogs, Eudy and Tula — which I suggest we collectively rename We Make Lassie Look Like Amanda Bynes — were put on the island in 2006, there were eight. Since then, the little penguin population has grown to almost 200. And you know how many penguins have been killed by red foxes in those seven years? Zero.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing and James Bond lookalike contests. The first two dogs got bored and swam back to the mainland. And humans caused other problems, like they do:
Some people had trespassed onto the island, playing with the dogs that in turn tried to play with the penguins. They died of fright. [Ed. note: The penguins, not the trespassers.]
Poor little buddies. But Eudy and Tula have been working out great so far. And after breeding season, they get a well-earned vacation:
They spend the other six months at Swampy’s farm, roaming with the free-range chickens.
Aww. (That may be the first time we’ve said “aww” about dogs being “sent to a farm.”)
- Little Penguins all but doomed , New Zealand Herald