Goats help protect native forests from devastating wildfires in Chile

Goats help protect native forests from devastating wildfires in Chile
A goat of the "Buena Cabra" (Good Goat), Santa Juana, Chile, credit: Reuters

In Santa Juana, a city in southern Chile that has been heavily impacted by wildfires, locals have requested the help of an unconventional taskforce to combat the blazes: a herd of goats. 

In February, the goats successfully saved the native forest of Bosques de Chacay, preventing a huge forest fire – which destroyed nearly 440,000 hectares in Chile – from consuming the park. 

“When we were faced with the fire in February of this year, on February 3, the (goat) strategy was put to the test. Just 10 percent out of our 16-hectare (40-acre) property was affected,” Rocio Cruces, co-founder of the park and the “Buena Cabra” (Good Goat) project, said.

The firefighting technique, which is also employed in Ireland, Portugal and Spain, uses grazing goats to control dry pastures and other vegetation that contribute to forest fires, which are caused by heatwaves and severe drought. Additionally, goat droppings help to feed the soil and prevent further erosion.  

Cruces started the initiative after the devastating wildfires in Chile in 2017. Since then, her flock has expanded from 16 to 150 goats, and she hopes to inspire others to adopt similar methods.

“Our venture began in 2017 when we were threatened by a fire. We began to investigate what methodology we could use that was in harmony with the environment, and we found this methodology,” Cruces said.

“We are more confident than ever that this methodology works, and we want to share it with other territories to generate an ecological prevention of fires and thus contribute to reducing the effects of climate change,” Cruces added.

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