Tula, Protector Of Penguins On Middle Island, Is Retiring
After almost a decade of working hard to protect a precious little penguin colony, Tula the maremma sheepdog is heading into retirement.
The 11-year-old dog, along with her sister Eudy, has been guarding breeding penguins on Middle Island, near Warrnambool in south-west Victoria, since she was just two-years-old.
The sisters were part of the inspiration behind the 2015 movie Oddball, which tells the story of a maremma sheepdog trained to protect a penguin sanctuary from fox attacks.
"After 8 years protecting Middle Island, Tula is now retiring from her duties," the Middle Island Maremma Penguin Project said on Facebook.
"Her, along with her sister Eudy are the true heroes of the project and without them the project would not have been so successful. We want to thank Tula so much for her tireless efforts."
The project was established in 2006 after the colony size of little penguins in the area drastically declined.
Thanks to fox predation, there were fewer than 10 penguins in the colony.
Maremmas -- which are typically bred to protect flocks of sheep and, more recently, chickens -- were put on the island to safeguard the penguins during breeding season.
It was a world-first for the dogs and has been working wonders for the penguin population ever since, with 182 small penguins recorded in the colony in 2017.
Tula, who until now has been the lead guardian dog, won't be giving up her protective duties completely.
Maremmas are working dogs and, as such, don't like not having a job.
After leaving Middle Island, the mature pooch will head to a farm where she can protect chickens, while also helping to train the younger guardian dogs.
Eudy, on the other hand, will keep working on the island for one more season.
Oddball, the dog for which the film was named, sadly died in 2015.
Though he arguably is the most well-known, Oddball actually only spent two weeks on Middle Island protecting penguins.
His short time on the job proved the dogs could be used to protect the flightless birds, and those two weeks led to the project which is still operating today.