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Farewell Oddball: penguin-protecting maremma and movie inspiration dies

Donna Coutts, February 16, 2017 6:45AM Herald Sun

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ODDBALL — the pioneering*, penguin-protecting dog that inspired a movie — has died.

He was 15 years old, or 105 in dog years.

Oddball spent two weeks on Middle Island, off the coast of Warrnambool, during 2006 and proved maremma sheepdogs could be used to protect a Victorian penguin colony* from foxes.

His stay was so successful in helping the penguin population it led to the launch of a permanent protection project using the breed.

Oddball the maremma dog. Picture: supplied media_cameraOddball the maremma dog. Picture: supplied

The Middle Island Maremma Project posted the sad news on Facebook on Tuesday.

“Old Oddball has gone to the big chook run in the sky and will rest in peace!!” the post read.

In 2015, a film was made about the true story of Oddball, the dog that protected penguins and helped stabilise* their population.

Starring Shane Jacobson, the film was nominated* for several awards and won the Audience Award for Best Family Film at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Oddball the movie was nominated for several awards. Picture: supplied media_cameraOddball the movie was nominated for several awards. Picture: supplied

When the Middle Island Maremma Project began in 2006, Warrnambool’s little penguin colony was declining* due to fox predation*.

After Oddball’s stay on the island, maremma dogs were trained and placed on the island to protect the birds from predators such as foxes during breeding seasons.

Oddball’s owner, Allan “Swampy” Marsh said there hasn’t been a fox on the island since then.

The local council is considering a statue of Oddball opposite Middle Island.

Maremma dogs originally come from the Maremma and Abruzzi regions in Italy, where they have been used for hundreds of years to protect livestock*. In Australia they are protecting animals such as sheep and free-range chooks.

There are plans by Werribee Open Range Zoo to use maremma dogs to protect a population of eastern barred bandicoots to be released into grassland in western Victoria at the end of this year. Eastern barred bandicoots are extinct on mainland Australia and endangered* in Tasmania. Foxes and feral cats prey on the bandicoots.

GLOSSARY

pioneering: doing something new

colony: group of people or animals living in a particular place

stabilise: keep the same

nominated: suggested

declining: going down in number

predation: preying of one animal on another

livestock: farm animals

endangered: not extinct, but in decline

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Activity 1: Oddball

Use the information in the article to answer the following questions. Use full sentences.

1. What type of dog was Oddball?

2. What was the problem on Middle Island before 2006?

3. How did Oddball help to solve it?

4. Why was Oddball chosen for this job?

5. Was he successful? How do you know?

6. How will this breed of dog continue to have a positive impact on animal populations?

Extension: The local council is considering a statue of Oddball opposite Middle Island.

Design a statue that you think will be fitting for Oddball.

Write a short paragraph to go on a plaque near the statue. Your paragraph should explain who Oddball was and his impact on the penguin colony of Middle Island.

OR

Write a short poem dedicated to Oddball and the wonderful work that he did.

Time: allow about 30 minutes to complete this task

Curriculum links: English

Activity 2: A knight in a fluffy white coat!

Superman is considered a hero by some people as he uses his super powers to protect people. In the same way, Oddball could be considered a hero to the penguins on Middle Island.

Draw at least four squares (approximately 10cm x 10cm) across your page and create a cartoon strip* that shows Oddball’s heroic work. Create your cartoon from the penguin’s perspective. What would they think of Oddball? Your pictures and story do not have to be realistic (ie Oddball could have a mask or cape, he may be able to fly) but should include the general idea that Oddball protects the penguins from foxes.

* A comic strip is a series of drawings to tell a short story. The text is usually in speech bubbles or brief captions.

Extension: Maremma dogs originally come from the Maremma and Abruzzi regions in Italy, where they have been used for hundreds of years to protect livestock. Do some more research about Italy. Create a fact file with the following information;

Country name:

Capital City:

Population:

Language spoken:

Traditional food:

Famous landmarks:

Include a map and picture of the flag:

Extra resources: Books about Italy, Internet access.

Time: allow about 30 minutes to complete this task

Curriculum links: English, Ethical Capabilities, Humanities – Geography

VCOP Activity

(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation)

Activity: Flip the tense.

The article is written in past tense. Identify within the article 10 words that you can change the tense from past to present tense.

Eg: The local council is considering …

The local council was considering …

Time: allow at least 15 minutes to complete the task

Curriculum Links: English, Big Write, VCOP

Activity provided by Andrell Education www.andrelleducation.com.au

EXTRA RESOURCES

PUPPY PARTY TIME

LIFE-SAVING FASHION KNITS FOR PENGUINS

FAT, HAPPY AND HEALTHY

GUIDE DOG TRAINERS GUIDE OTHERS

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