Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Dog Who Protects Australia's Penguins

The birds are tiny, barely a foot tall and weighing only a two pounds. The last remaining colony on the mainland of New South Wales is at Manly, just north of Sydney, and their numbers have been dwindling--down to just 60 breeding pairs in 2011.

They are tiny, barely a foot tall.
Predators are largely responsible for their decline: the main culprits being foxes, cats, and domestic dogs. Residents of Sydney are asked to become "penguin protectors" by keeping their pet indoors at night.

One dog, however, is sworn to protect them. She is Eco, an English Springer Spaniel, trained by Steve Austin, who has already had success training sniffer dogs for wildlife protection.
Steve Austin with Trainee
Penguin nests are well hidden and difficult for humans to locate. Eco has been taught to sniff out their burrows without disturbing the birds. As previously unknown nests are found, park rangers can map and monitor their locations and, they hope, do more effective predator control.
Eco at work
It takes her only about 40 minutes to cover over half a mile of beach.

A Little Penguin
She has also been trained as a fox and cat detection dog, and when she isn't looking for penguins, she will look for their predators, both at Manly and at other national parks in New South Wales where wildlife is under threat.
Penguin Cove opened in 2012