The Public Entity Saba is once more emphasizing the need for responsible goat ownership. While assistance is still being offered to free-roaming goat owners, it is also important that the owners themselves step up and take responsibility for their free-roaming goats and properly care for them.
Carcasses of dead goats are being spotted all around the island. Currently, the government-appointed hunters are shooting only within the Mt. Scenery National Park. This means that goats that are found dead throughout the rest of the island have died mainly due to the lack of care and neglect, from their owners. These goats die from a combination of thirst, starvation, and heavy infestations of intestinal worms.
The severe drought that Saba is experiencing at this time is also contributing to the further suffering of these roaming animals while very few of these owners are actively supplying food or water, especially in the more remote areas of the island. Weekly, the Saba Government receives calls from private property owners to remove the decaying carcasses of goats that have died in front yards, in cemeteries, and other public and private spaces. None of these goat fatalities were caused by the goat project or the hunters.
For the past year, the Public Entity Saba has made available various forms of assistance to the free-roaming goat owners, so that they could take responsibility and shoot as many of their goats as possible to avoid animals being wasted. This was the intention of the project. They were reminded of this assistance several times throughout the course of the year by way of individual letters, meetings, and press releases. However, most free-roaming goat owners did not request for or make use of any of the assistance offered to them. This led to very few goats being shot by their owners, with most being left to roam about the island uncared for and uncontrolled.
In a last effort, the Saba government will offer this assistance again to free-roaming goat owners for another two weeks. With this, goat owners can receive fencing to create pens for their goats, goat owners who are civil servants can get time off with pay to hunt, assistance paid for by the government in the form of manpower to help retrieve goats that have been shot will be made available, as well as subsidized veterinary care for sick goats. In addition to these offered services, the goat owners can also request hunting assistance from the hunters and the government will make available someone who can help to butcher the excess meat.
The government has decided to hire persons who can assist with the collecting of the goats that have been left by their owners so that the goats can be butchered when shot. Starting in a few weeks, the recovery team will also walk with the government-appointed hunters to retrieve animals where possible in safe areas. The free-roaming goat owners can still also receive this assistance and are encouraged to make use of it. For this, they can submit their requests to the local coordinator. All goats in built-up areas will be retrieved. For several reasons, it is not possible to recover all goats outside these areas. Many goats are unfit for recovery: some are too old, too sick or too meager due to the lack of care. Traditionally, these goats are also known to be shot by the local hunters and are left behind to decay. Also, many of Saba’s goats live in the steep, rocky hillsides, which also makes it impossible for recovery. For now, the butchering can be done by persons hired by the government. The government continues the preparations to establish a butchering facility where people can butcher their animals as part of a sustainable, long-term animal husbandry system.
Encourage responsible husbandry
The perception that Government is against animal husbandry is simply not the case. It does however encourage responsible animal husbandry. The idea of the goat control project was never to get rid of the local culture or to have persons stop keeping their local goats. This is why the government made available the different forms of assistance to the free-roaming goat owners. Goat keeping, however, needs to be done in a sustainable, responsible way, whereby the animals are kept in pens and are properly cared for. Having animals roam freely, not being cared for and left to die due to thirst and starvation is far from humane nor should it be accepted. In addition, goats being a public nuisance and risk to public safety is not only damaging to nature and causes erosion, but it is also against the law and it constitutes animal cruelty.
In the meantime, the invasive species specialists have started to remove goats in remote locations like the national park, which is a protected natural area where the biodiversity needs to be safeguarded from further destruction by the goats, and where erosion needs to be tackled. The goat owners in this area were first given time and offered assistance to remove the goats from this area. The hunters will soon focus on other areas besides the national park. The public can call the local coordinator to have goats removed from their yard. The public will be informed once this service is offered.
A select few trails are closed for safety reasons. The closures are only temporary. Many trails are left open, and the island has many other beautiful trails that can be hiked. Trails that are closed on weekdays are open on weekends. Government and the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) will provide regular updates in the coming period on which trails are open and which are closed. This information will also be available at the Trail Shop and on the SCF website. People are urged not to go beyond the closure signs for their own safety, as shooting will be in progress.