VIC- Point Danger

Point Danger Gannet Colony Photo; After the success of using guard dogs at Warrnambool to protect a penguin colony, scientist David Williams moved to Portland to protect Australia’s only mainland breeding colony of Australasian Gannets. He brought Maremma dogs, Elma and Reamma with him. The main colony of about 10,000 Australasian Gannets is on Lawrence Rocks, a flat-topped island about 2km offshore from the tip of Point Danger. With space limited, a few birds splintered off to settle on adjacent Point Danger in 1996. Gannets are present here during the breeding season, from about early October to February. Breeding coincides with the Bonney Upwelling, an oceanographic nutrient bloom that creates huge quantities of seafood. Plankton-eating pilchards and anchovies are the gannets’ main food for raising young chicks and are caught by diving head-long into the ocean. The birds usually raise one downy chick each year. These develop a mottled appearance as juveniles before returning to the mostly white plumage of the adult. However, in the first year of its existence no chicks were produced because of human disturbance and predation by foxes and feral cats, by 2004 foxes had destroyed all the nests. The two Maremmas were brought in to scare off the foxes. Unfortunately, they found Australasian Gannet eggs delicious to eat. A farmers’ trick of filling a couple of eggs with pepper soon taught these two a lesson. Drawing on the experience of the Little Penguin colony, the dogs were taught from a very young age that the area including the birds, the chicks, the eggs and the rocks on which the colony nested was their territory. They managed well in an argumentative colony where there’s barely two beak-lengths between nests and incursions create instant disputes. The gannets have also been protected by limiting public access to a viewing site overlooking the colony. Colony size has grown to a few hundred birds and is an important tourist attraction. There is a live camera at the colony if you want to take a look.