Stray goats are a problem on Saba. Reason for the Public Entity Saba to take action by starting a culling (controlled eradication) program to tackle vegetation loss, erosion and the damage to people’s private property.
The course of action consists of two parts, a small-scale approach that focuses on inhabited areas for now and a comprehensive approach to clear the entire island of stray goats per January 1, 2020. The Department of Agriculture will start at once with the culling of stray goats in inhabited areas to prevent further damage to private properties.
From January 1, 2020, all goats must be registered, tagged and fenced in. Per that date, stray goats throughout the island will be culled, and enforcement will also start on untagged, unregistered and free-roaming goats.
Stray goats have become an increasing problem on Saba. Flourishing natural areas have turned barren because of vegetation loss. Apart from the vegetation loss, and the associated erosion and falling rocks, people, generally fed up with goats destroying their yards, have been asking for a solution. Then there is also the aspect of animal wellbeing: goats are suffering due to the lack of water and food as a result of the current dry season. Because of this, many goats have died in the past months, creating not only risks in terms of health and hygiene, but also damaging Saba’s image as a ‘Green Destination’.
Positive results elsewhere
Saba is not the only island with a goat problem. On many islands throughout the world, there have been culling programs, with positive results. A success story is Redonda, a small, over 50 hectares island south-west of Antigua. From August 2016 to June 2017, goats and rats were removed from this uninhabited island, and within 12 months the island witnessed a miraculous transformation, from a moonscape to a green landscape, allowing unique, native plants and animals to rapidly recover.
International experts agree that removing goat populations from islands is a powerful conservation tool to prevent extinctions and to restore ecosystems. According to re-known ecologists Karl Campbell and C. Josh Donlan, 120 islands, totaling more than 567,000 ha have been freed from introduced goats and their detrimental effects.
Goat owners’ regulations
By law, goat owners on Saba are obligated to tag and register their animals, and to keep them on an enclosed, fenced property. The law also states that goat owners are obligated to provide their animals with the necessary care, such as food, water and shelter. Furthermore, goat owners violate the law when they allow their animals to walk and graze on other people’s property without permission. The destruction that the animals cause is deemed a criminal act by law. Goat owners who want to fence in their animals but lack the financial means, can request assistance from the government.
The Public Entity Saba is in close contact with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) in the Netherlands and the representative of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Bonaire regarding assistance for the goat culling program. In first instance, the goats will be eradicated through hunting. Other methods of culling are being discussed with experts. Dead goats will be removed and properly disposed of.