As part of conservation efforts made over the last three decades, sheepdogs are being trained to help a tiny endangered marsupial, native to the southeastern part of Australia, finally, regain the mainland.
“To the best of my knowledge, it’s a world first to shut down a long-term captive breeding and insurance program because we’re no longer needed,” says Marisa Parrott, a reproductive biologist and head of Zoos Victoria’s captive breeding program. “There have been animals that have been extinct in the wild and have been reintroduced, but they still have global breeding programs there to support them. This one is completely different.”
Following 30 years of captive breeding, the next conservation step to reintroduce into the wild and ensure the survival of the eastern barred bandicoot is to train Maremma sheepdogs to protect the tiny animal, not hunt it, on seven protected sites. By staying nearby the solitary marsupial, the friendly canine could ward off predators such as foxes. If this experiment works, a wild population of the endangered marsupial would be re-established on the Australian mainland in decades. The eastern barred bandicoot went from extinct in the wild to endangered, a first for the tiny animal.