The real story behind the Oddball movie

How low can a fox go? In Warrnambool, the depths are quite extraordinary. The coastal town’s Middle Island little penguin population plummeted from several hundred seabirds to single digits during the 2004-05 breeding season, and foxes were to blame; they had been swimming across from the mainland for a feed. Furious locals declared that the annual massacre had to stop, but how to outwit a cunning fox? Ask a chicken farmer.

maremmas

Local poultry expert Alan ‘Swampy’ Marsh had been having enormous success using Maremmas to protect his free range chooks, and suggested sending a dog across the channel to guard the penguins. The idea ruffled a few feathers, for it was a world-first, but Swampy’s dog, Oddball, passed a four-week trial with flying colours – the island has been fox-free ever since. I shared the tale in the Dec-Jan issue of Outback magazine, while the story of the penguin protectors has also made it onto the big screen, with the movie Oddball directly inspired by the Middle Island Maremma Project.

Picture courtesy Roadshow Films

Picture courtesy Roadshow Films

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