Old Irish Goats protect Dublin hills from wildfires

Old Irish Goats are protecting the hills around Dublin from wildfires. The indigenous animals love to eat the highly flammable vegetation called gorse.

The local council hopes grazing by a herd of 25 Old Irish Goats will leave the north Dublin suburb of Howth less prone to natural wildfires.

Conservationists also hope the ‘new job’ will contribute to the survival of the goats, who are almost extinct.

“Howth was targeted by a lot of fire. So there’s a lot of gorse here, and it’s prone, it’s very flammable. The goats, on the other hand, love gorse, so it’s a win-win in that sense,” goat herder Melissa Jeuken told Reuters.

She has worked with goats for a long time, and when she saw the unique job advertised, she went for the opportunity, and “I’m now here with the goats in Howth.”

“I suppose the project also focuses on the Old Irish Goat defining their role as a functional biodiversity crew. They’re a hard-working crew, they’re up for the job, they’re keen to do it,” Jeuken said about the goats.

The project aims to instil “key conservation grazing principles to tackle fire prevention and habitat management” while helping to ensure the breed’s survival, she said.

“So, at the moment, the herd is settling in. We’re acclimatising to the area,”
Jeuken said. “We’re getting to know the place. We’re getting familiar with the lay of the land.”

Almost extinct
Conservationists feared the Old Irish Goat – who numbered around 250,000 in the early 1900s – were extinct until some were found on the western mountains of Mulranney. Their identity was confirmed by DNA sampling at Trinity College Dublin.

Padraig Browne, whose Old Irish Goat Society set up a five-acre sanctuary in Mulranney from which the Howth goats were chosen, said the animals need a lot of support for conservation and that the grazing project is an ideal solution.

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