An Australian Sheepdog Named Oddball Rescues A Penguin Colony

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A group of hungry foxes threatened to eradicate a penguin colony in Australia, and they might have gotten away with it if it weren't for a sheepdog named Oddball.

A colony of the world's smallest penguins, known as little penguins or little blue penguins, was nearly wiped out in 2005 when wolves from the Australian mainland swam across a narrow channel to Middle Island, off of the southern coast of the state of Victoria, and killed about 360 of the flightless birds in a two-night period.

"We went from a point where we had around 800 penguins down to where we could only find four," Peter Abbott, of the Penguin Preservation Project, told BBC News.

Enter Oddball. In response to the devastating attacked, a local farmer had the brilliant idea of sending one of his Maremma sheepdogs, who are already used to protect chickens, goats, and sheep from predators, to guard the flightless birds of Marble Island too. After Oddball's arrival, Abbott told BBC News, the change was immediate: Foxes stopped swimming the channel, scared off by the dog's barking and scent. "Putting a dog on the island changed the hierarchy," Abbott said.

Since Oddball and other dogs arrived on the scene in 2005, not a single penguin has been killed by a fox on the island, the BBC reports. And this heartwarming story of animal-on-animal love has been adapted for the screen into a movie, fittingly titled Oddball, that was released in Australia earlier this year.