Australia Deploys Sheepdogs to Save Penguin Colony
Earth Science Current Event
November 4, 2015
Ramzy, Austin. "Australia Deploys Sheepdogs to Protect Penguins From Foxes." The New York
Times. The New York Times, 04 Nov. 2015. Web. 04 Nov. 2015.
Australians are now training sheepdogs to guard the the species called Little penguins, which are the smallest, flightless penguins on the Australian coast, immediately making them easy prey. From an original population of 800 penguins on the Middle Island off of Victoria, the number of birds drastically dropped to under 10 birds, making them in immediate danger of extinction.
This drop in population was due to the number of red foxes imported for hunting purposes in the 19th century. Most of the Little penguins are now are located on islands, but even there they aren’t able to escape the long time predators. A local chicken farmer named Mr. Marsh who lives on the Middle Island also feels this threat of the foxes for the sake of his farm. He discovered in the middle of the night as he stood with his shotgun at ready, that the dog that was annoying him was also scaring away the foxes that stalked his chickens.
Mr. Walsh began to train sheepdogs to protect his chickens, and was immediately successful. Once he heard about the declining population of penguins, he knew that these sheepdogs would be the perfect solution. In 2006, the first trained sheepdog was deployed and since then, the not one penguin has been lost along the shore due to the fox population.
Although the Little Penguin population was never technically endangered, the success of the population stabilizing due to them being guarded by these dogs who are incredibly self-reliant made others believe this same idea would work on species in more danger of extinction.
The success in the sheepdog experiment on the Little penguin population has shown animal protectors that there is a way that a species under threat can be immediately helped by training dogs to keep their predators away. It also reminds the public that some of the easiest discoveries are right in front of our faces, as it was for the local chicken farmer who saved hundreds of penguins because of the dogs that had previously annoyed him.
The article over all flowed incredibly well, and there is not much I would change about it. The author Austin Ramzy immediately drew the reader in by starting with the word “massacred” in order to describe the terrible things that were happening to these peaceful animals. He provided enough background for the story to be told correctly, as well as told the public what Mr. Walsh’s work in Middle Island will do to help species in Australia and other parts of the world. The pictures that were placed throughout the article were breathtaking and really captured the fear in the small animals, as well as the confidence to protect in the pictures of the sheepdogs with their trainer Mr. Walsh. The piece I wish the author would talk more about is the more recent work the sheepdogs have been doing, because most of what he speaks about is from several years ago. It would’ve been nice for the viewer to understand what the dogs are striving to do in present time, whether it was training or helping out a specific animal.