Sunday, January 5, 2014

Island tours give visitors close-up view of penguin project in Warrnambool

WARRNAMBOOL’S world-famous Maremma dogs are about to get lots more company this week with daily tourist tours to Middle Island where the fluffy canines are protecting penguins.
Visitors wearing lifejackets and safety vests will wade through the Merri River mouth at low tide for a guided tour where they will have the chance to get close to Maremmas Eudy and Tula as they patrol their patch.
Next year actor Shane Jacobson and a film crew will use the island as a backdrop for a movie called Oddball, based on the real-life story of how former Dennington chook farmer Swampy Marsh and his two Maremmas helped save the penguin population from extinction.
It was a world-first project. “We stay on the designated path so penguin burrows aren’t trampled,” tourism services manager Peter Abbott said. “They are working dogs, so we don’t want to disturb them too much. These tours give visitors a chance to meet the animals. Times are dependant on low tide, but people should expect to get wet.”
Three  tours  conducted before New Year’s Eve  attracted strong bookings and Mr Abbott expects similar good patronage for  more frequent visits starting Monday morning and continuing through January.
Further tours will be conducted on demand and education programs for school groups will also be held. 
Details are on the Flagstaff Hill website and its Facebook link.


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