Plibersek wages war on millions of feral goats

Feral goats in Australia will be targeted under a new framework aimed at protecting the nation's endangered species.

A new plan aimed at controlling feral goat populations has been announced by the Federal Government.

It says out-of-control numbers of goats are threatening over a hundred endangered Australian plant and animal species.

A new paper follows recent measures by Australian governments to crack down on invasive species, including feral cats, horses, and ants.

Feral goats in Australia

Feral goats have been in Australia since British colonisation. They’re now in their millions and found across Australia, though herds are concentrated in NSW, SA, WA and QLD.

Goats can cause extreme damage to the natural environment, such as preventing plant regeneration and limiting food sources for native species.

Their impact has been seen around prominent natural sites like the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Blue Mountains.

The proposed solution

This week, the Government released a paper proposing methods to control goat numbers. This included aerial and ground shooting.

It also suggested closing water points used by feral goats by constructing one-way gates or fences where goats are known to access water. Goats walking through these points then become trapped inside the fence.

Drones and camera traps to monitor goat packs were also suggested.

Judas goats

The paper proposed a technique using ‘Judas goats’ to manage goat numbers.

This involves attaching satellite collars to specific (sometimes de-sexed) goats, which are released into areas with widely dispersed goat populations.

Capitalising on the “social behaviour of goats” the paper says Judas goats locate small, hard-to-find wild herds.

“Location of this goat is tracked, and managers are then able to locate and destroy the herd.”

What happens next?

The exact strategies for managing feral goats won’t be determined before public feedback on the issue (due in February) is considered.

However, long-term management solutions will be dictated by several priorities outlined by the report.

This includes a focus on animal welfare, supported by binding agreements to ensure humane management practices across Australia.

Advocate response

TDA reached out to the RSPCA, but it didn’t provide comment. The animal welfare body is expected to consider the issues posed in the Government paper.

The RSPCA has previously acknowledged the necessity to manage feral goats to reduce negative impacts on other animals.

It said it believes any management practices must be humane and effective.

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