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Guardian Dogs as Bandicoot Bodyguards
Maremma Dogs and Eastern Barred Bandicoots may seem like strange bedfellows but in a new pilot program, their relationship could help save the Bandicoot from extinction.
Zoos Victoria, Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre and Tiverton Property Partners have hatched a plan to trial a Guardian Dog program similar to the one at Middle Island where Maremmas dogs are trained to protect Little Penguins from foxes.
Maremma dogs have been protecting livestock around the world for more than 2,000 years. They are specially bonded to the group of animals that they instinctively protect.
The mainland Eastern Barred Bandicoot population is considered extinct in the wild because of feral fox and cat predation and habitat loss. Once thought to be lost forever, less than 50 of the animals were rediscovered living amongst a pile of wrecked cars at the Hamilton Tip in the late 1980s. Melbourne Zoo has since bred 650 Bandicoots that have been released at protected feral-proof fenced areas in Hamilton, Mount Rothwell and Woodlands Historic Park.
Zoos Victoria strongly believes that, after 20 years, now is the time to return the Bandicoot to the wild.
The Guardian Dog program will trial whether Bandicoots, protected by specially trained Maremma dogs, will be able to form self-sustaining populations in areas that are not enclosed by feral proof fences on private land.
The pilot is planned to take place at Tiverton Station, a private piece of land in Western Victoria.
To make this a reality, Zoos Victoria is seeking corporate and philanthropic support to help fund the trial which is expected to cost $580,000 over five years.
If successful, the trial could result in the creation of The Fighting Extinction Dog Squad, a specially trained squad of dogs that protect and help monitor a host of native wildlife species.