Endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots will soon have a protector from feral cats and foxes in the for of a maremma sheep dog.
The program was launched on Saturday 2 February by the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville along with Zoo member Isaac Busuttil and Maremma puppy, Albus at Werribee Open Range Zoo.
The pilot project is being run by the Victorian Government, Zoos Victoria, Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre and Tiverton Property Partners. It will take place at Tiverton Station which is in Western Victoria where two dogs will work to protect the dogs.
It’s not the first time Maremma dogs have been used to protect animals. A successful program near Warrnambool has allowed the local little penguin colony to flourish.
In the past it was believed that Eastern barred bandicoots were extinct until they were discovered living at the Hamilton Top during the 1980s in a pile of wrecked cars.
650 bandicoots have been bred by Zoos Victoria since their rediscovery. Some of these have been released into protected feral-proof areas at Hamilton, Mount Rothwell and the Woodlands Historic Park.
The first recruit for the program is four month old Albus. This name means bright white defender in Latin. He will be an ambassador for the program as the working dogs finish their training.
Currently he is learning to use his manners when he meets new people. If you spot it at the Werribee Open Range Zoo you can help his training by letting him approach you and being calm and gentle with him.
To complete the program the Victorian government has provided $100,000 as part of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery program. The community also donated $190,000 towards the trial becoming a reality.
One was Isaac Busuttil who provided $500 from money he asked friends and family to contribute in lieu of presents for his sixth birthday.
Photo Credit: Werribee Open Range Zoo