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Volunteers are evacuating 100 stray goats from an idyllic Italian island

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Volunteers are evacuating 100 stray goats from an idyllic Italian island
One of the goats of Palmaria. Photo: Gabriele Ferreri/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
17:37 CET+01:00
In what's been called the "biggest rescue operation ever attempted in Italy", animal lovers have begun removing around 100 stray goats from the island of Palmaria.

The goats are considered an invasive species on the island – part of a protected archipelago off the north-western Italian coast that's designated a Unesco World Heritage Site – and will be taken to the mainland to be rehoused.

READ ALSO: A herd of 'rebel cows' has been living wild in the Italian mountains for years

Goats have lived wild on Palmaria since the 1960s. No one is quite sure how they got there, but over the decades the herd has grown to far outnumber the island's human population, which currently stands at around 30.

A common sight on the island's steep cliffs, the dinky goats may be popular with tourists, but their tendency to chomp native flora and trample residents' crops made them a nuisance to the locals.

Photo: Roberto Celi/Facebook

Regional authorities have been seeking a way to get rid of the animals for years – culminating in a national furore in 2016 when reports began circulating that the mayor was considering having the goats culled.

The council eventually came to an arrangement last year with Italy's national association for the protection of animals, Enpa, which undertook to capture and remove Palmaria's goats. 

The ambitious operation began last weekend and is expected to take up to a year to complete.

The first stage involves carrying out a goat census, since no one is quite sure how many of them live on the island. Rescuers plan to lay bait to lure a few of the animals into enclosures, fit them with radio tracking collars and release them, so that they can lead them to the rest of the group.

Once captured, the goats will be checked by vets, shipped a farm on the mainland and kept in quarantine before, finally, to new homes.

Enpa is inviting applications from anyone who wants to adopt a goat (or 40), but there's one condition: they absolutely mustn't be destined for the dinner table.


Photo: Orietta Godani/Facebook

"Only 100 percent cruelty-free adoptions are being considered," Enpa's vice president, Massimo Pigoni, told La Stampa. "So once they leave the island, we have to be sure that these animals won't end up at the end of a shotgun or in a cooking pot, nor put into production. Careful, though, they're not indoor animals and they can't be kept on a leash like a dog."

Even if you can't take a goat home with you, you can still help by donating to the crowdfunding page that Enpa has created to help cover its expenses.

"This large-scale rescue operation comes with high costs, especially since we're talking about an island," the organization says.

"There are the costs of capturing the goats, transporting them, keeping them, the considerable costs of vet care and checks before and after adoption; costs to be borne until the last goat has reached its destination. In safety. Loved, cared for, protected."

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