Herd of 25 ‘fire fighting’ goats makes its new home on Hill of Howth in Dublin, Ireland
A herd of 25 goats has been introduced on the Hill of Howth as part of a new conservation project aimed at reducing the risk of gorse fires. After a summer in which destructive blazes raged for several weeks, the reintroduction of grazing livestock is now seen as a possible solution to the ongoing problem. Under the first phase of the initiative, 25 Old Irish Goats have been brought to Howth as part of an innovative landscape management plan aimed at tackling the spread of wildfires. It’s hoped that the goats, taken from the national herd in Mulranny, Co Mayo, will create natural firebreaks and reduce the height of vegetation. The number of goats is expected to double by next spring.
The scheme, which will last for three years, is a partnership between Fingal County Council and the Old Irish Goat Society, with support from the Howth Special Amenity Area Order (SAAO).
The project will use traditional land management, involving an experienced goat herder and sheepdogs and will trial a Norwegian GPS tracking system to define fenceless grazing areas.
Seán Carolan, of the Old Irish Goat Society, said the herder assigned to Howth will move the goats from site to site on a daily basis and will look after the breeding programme.
Melissa Jeuken, the herder appointed to run the scheme, said the presence of goats would not affect visitors to the popular beauty spot. “We are reminding the public to keep their dogs on a lead and not to feed the goats if they encounter them,” she said.
Up until the 1940s, Howth Head was traditionally grazed by livestock, including goats.
According to Hans Visser, Biodiversity Officer with Fingal County Council, there is a clear link between the disappearance of livestock and the decline of the heathland on the peninsula, which is part of the Dublin Bay UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. “By reinstating grazing with goats, we intend to restore the heathland and reduce the wildfire risk on Howth,” he said.
Visser said that the six-week fire on Shielmartin Hill during the summer showed why it was important to come up with a proactive way of managing the problem. He added that goat grazing is widely used in countries such as Spain and Portugal. “The goats are going to be an essential part of dealing with wildfires,” he said. “With the first 25, we’re going to focus on the key strategic wildfire areas by creating essential firebreaks.”
With Old Irish Goats “critically endangered”, a conservation programme will form part of the Howth project. The female goats and kids released in Howth this week are to be joined by a herd of males in October.
Fingal County Council believes the goats can offer a more economical and sustainable solution in managing the landscape and will reduce the risk of fires.
The council’s chief executive, Ann Marie Farrelly, said, “We look forward to its success as Howth’s newest residents settle into their new home in the coming weeks and months.”
Source: The Independent