Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group and the Point Danger Committee of Management

Project Profile

Nominee Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group and the Point Danger Committee of Management
State Victoria
Award Ceremony 2010 National Landcare Awards
Category Australian Government Coastcare Award

Issues

The work of the Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group and the Point Danger Committee of Management in preventing fox predation through the use of Mareema guardian dogs has contributed to the sustainable management and increasing number and spread of penguin colonies.

Project Detail

The Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group and the Point Danger Committee of Management have been nominated for a National Landcare Award for their work in the protection of the Middle Island and Portland penguin colonies.

The project has contributed to the sustainable management and increasing number and spread of penguin colonies.

A Natural Resource Management student associated with the group who had experience with Maremma guardian dogs at a free-range chicken farm suggested the approach to protect the penguins.  Maremma guardian dogs have been used to protect chicken and sheep for many decades in Australia. The project took a tried and true agricultural method and adapted it for conservation in what is believed to be a world first.

Middle Island is located in the heart of Warrnambool’s tourist precinct and situated at the Merri River estuary. The area has significant cultural significance through the port and unique environmental habitat with Little Penguins and other seabirds.

The Project was initiated by the Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group in partnership with Phillip Island Nature Park, Deakin University, Parks Victoria, Warrnambool City Council, GHCMA, Coastcare, Landcare, DSE and the community.

The Project prevents fox predation of the Little Penguin through the use of the Maremma dogs, which will allow the colony to breed unhindered and increase the penguin population from less than ten in 2005 to a self-sustaining level. The project also aims to increase community awareness of fox predation issues on native wildlife and highlight the importance of protecting marine creatures such as Little Penguins in an urban environment.

Twelve months after starting the work with the Maremma’s at Middle Island, the Community Committee of Management at Portland colony adopted the same method with approximately 200 Port Danger Australasian Gannets protected by the dogs.  The fledging of Gannets (this is the first time a gannet has fledged from this colony) in 2009 and the short tailed shearwater colony have both made a dramatic recovery after decades of fox predation. It is at present the only mainland-breeding site and due to the work of the Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group, it may become Australia’s first mainland rookery.

The South West Maremma Dog Project contributes to the sustainable management of the Middle Island and Portland colonies. The project has increased the number and spread of species, both of which were in local decline. The short tailed shearwater colony of Middle Island is recovering and the Little Penguin numbers have increased to over 100 from below ten, just three years ago.

The South West Maremma Dog project is one of 88 finalists in the National Landcare Awards to be announced in Canberra on 24 June 2010.  Commencing in 1991, the Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and groups that make a valuable contribution to the land and coast where they live and work.

Photography

Maremma guarding Middle Island - view of mainland Warrnambool

Maremma guarding Middle Island - view of mainland Warrnambool