(Photo: Beate Sexton)
Pictured above is a maremma sheepdog with a stuffed bandicoot toy. Below is a real bandicoot photographed by Zoos Victoria in Australia. Wild bandicoots are greatly endangered due to attacks by foxes and feral cats. The zoo staff would like to enlarge the bandicoot population by training maremmas to live near bandicoot dens and protect them from predators.
Wildlife conservationists have already successfully used maremmas to protect an endangered penguin population. Zoos Victoria thinks that the same approach would be successful with these small marsupials. Oliver Milman writes for The Guardian:
The dogs, which like to work in pairs, will be sent to three different test sites in Victoria to see if they can effectively protect bandicoots without the need for fences. The spare Maremma puppy will be used by Zoos Victoria as a fundraising ambassador.
Maremma dogs are considered ideal for conservation work because they can bond to an array of other creatures while also viewing feral pests as mortal enemies. The dogs have formed friendships with sheep, goats, chickens and gannets in the past. In controlled experiments, sheep that heard dingo calls instinctively ran behind the dogs for protection.
-via Marginal Revolution