Last month a very special pack of animals was released near Skipton in Victoria’s south-west: a flock of sheep, two giant sheepdogs, and 20 tiny, shy marsupials.

This unusual group is serving an important conservation purpose: it is hopefully the start of bringing the eastern barred bandicoot back from extinction in the wild.

A Maremma sheepdog

A Maremma sheepdogCredit:Zoos Victoria

Keepers at Werribee Open Range Zoo have spent four years training Maremma sheepdogs, which look like giant golden retrievers with long white coats, to protect the bandicoots from predators, particularly foxes.

The bandicoots were widespread in southwest Victoria before habitat destruction and predators introduced by European settlers led to their extinction in the wild.

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