Seven Maremma dogs are being trained to protect Eastern Barred Bandicoots in a new Zoos Victoria program.

Since kicking off in the late 1980s, Melbourne Zoo’s successful bandicoot breeding program has released 650 of the marsupials into fenced-off areas in Hamilton, Mount Rothwell and Woodlands Historic Park. Now, the goal is to remove the fences and bring in the sheepdogs to fight off feral cats and foxes, encouraging bandicoots to form self-sustaining populations. Because, as Zoos Victoria says in an official statement, “After 20 years, now is the time to return the bandicoot to the wild.” Agreed 100%.

Here are some great pics of the Maremmas and bandicoots in action.

Maremma dogs originated in Italy and have watched over livestock for more than 2000 years. They’ve done great work on Victoria’s Middle Island, where they’ve been protecting Little Penguins from foxes – in fact, penguin numbers have rebounded from less than 20 to several hundred since the dogs started guarding them in 2006. (Who’s a good boooy?!)

For the new Zoos Victoria project, the dogs will work in pairs and spend two years training to defend the bandicoots’ breeding grounds. It will take 5 years and cost almost $600,000 to complete. Yeah, that’s a fair wad of cash and they certainly can’t do it on their own, so feel free to flick them a few dollars.

*Note: The dude on the homepage intro pic is clearly not a bandicoot. But don’t you reckon he’s a looker?

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