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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.
The Federal and Victorian Governments, Zoos Victoria, Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, Tiverton Property Partners, National Trust of Australia, Mooramong and the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team are working together on a Guardian Dog trial for the Eastern Barred Bandicoot.
This trial draws on the success of programs such as the Middle Island Maremma Dog Project (Warrnambool) where Maremmas have successfully protected Little Penguins from fox predation.
Maremmas are a breed of guardian dog that originated in Italy and have been used for centuries to successfully guard livestock. They are considered ideal for conservation work because they can bond to an array of animals, defend them from introduced predators and have a low prey-drive.
Once widespread across the basalt plains of South-Western Victoria, Eastern Barred Bandicoots are now extinct in the wild on mainland Australia as a result of habitat loss and predation from introduced predators, such as foxes.
Breeding programs and reserves surrounded by feral-proof fences have been critical to establishing an insurance population of this species. Now, we have an opportunity to bring the Eastern Barred Bandicoot back from the brink of extinction.
The Guardian Dog program will trial whether bandicoots, protected by specially trained Maremma Guardian Dogs, will be able to form self-sustaining populations in areas that are not enclosed by feral proof fences.
The first two working dog pups have the joined the program and over the next two years they will be gradually introduced to sheep, Eastern Barred Bandicoots and other native species.
When the dogs have matured they will begin work at trial sites including Tiverton Station, a private reserve in Western Victoria and Mooramong, a National Trust property near Skipton.
Up to six Maremma Guardian Dogs will take part in the trial that will be staged over five years.
If successful, the trial could result in the creation of a Fighting Extinction Dog Squad, a specially trained squad of dogs that protect and help monitor a host of native wildlife.
Thanks to the following supporters for their contributions, which have assisted to secure funding for the first 2 years of this exciting program:
- The Dyson Bequest
- John Cochrane
- The Scobie and Claire Mackinnon Trust
- Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning
- Threatened Species Commissioner Discretionary Grants