Some of you have been in touch recently with concerns about work to control feral goats at our Inversnaid reserve. For more information on this issue please see the email below.
Goats and the Inversnaid Special Area of Conservation
There has been a lot of concern over the welfare of the goats at our Inversnaid reserve and we wanted to send a reply to everyone that has taken the time to email us on this issue.
As the country's largest conservation organisation, the RSPB cares about all nature, and the reduction in number of these wild goats is a decision we've been forced to take with a very heavy heart. Our Inversnaid reserve is not only a beautiful woodland it is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which means we are legally bound to protect it from damage, from whatever source.
In May 2012, we were advised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Government conservation advisors, that the condition of the site was deteriorating and rare flora were at risk. In their opinion, this was the result of heavy grazing by the wild goats and because of the site's legal protection we had no choice but to do something to halt the damage.
The intention has never been to eradicate the goat population at Inversnaid, but to reduce the numbers to a level that maintains a harmony with the reserve. We initially sought a proposal for re-locating the goats, from the Feral Goat Research Group, but sadly nothing was forthcoming, so we were left with no choice but to go ahead with the cull.
Recent publicity has brought forward other offers of help with re-location, including an offer from Hillside Animal Sanctuary, which had not been made to us previously, but which is now being investigated.
So now we have an offer of somewhere to put the goats, but we still have no clear way of corralling them or safely capturing and transporting them the long distance to Norfolk. The terrain at the reserve is very steep, dangerous and difficult to access and the animals are naturally wild as they have never been domesticated. So we need to be sure that whatever we do, all the appropriate animal welfare, legal, health and safety and other official requirements are met.
It's too late to put all these measures in place for this year, as the cull is nearly over and has to be completed by the end of this month to avoid the breeding season. We sincerely hope we can find a way forward in discussion with experts in animal welfare that allows us to meet SNH's concerns and avoid the need to cull in the future.
We would like to re-assure you that we will be actively pursuing these new offers of help, to try and see if an alternative solution can be found to this complicated and unfortunate problem.
Thanks again for taking the time to email us
Dr Mike Clarke RSPB Chief Executive
Recently there has been some coverage about goats at our Inversnaid Reserve. Our previous blog explained the specialness of the reserve and the reasons that we need to control the goats at the site.
In the past 2 days we have been alerted to the suggestion that we have rejected an offer from an animal sanctuary in Norfolk to provide a home for the goats of Inversnaid. This is not the case. In the past 24 hours we have been in contact with Scotland for Animals, who have identified themselves as the organisation that set up the offer from the Norfolk animal sanctuary and we will be meeting with them shortly to discuss options.
We have never been opposed to the relocation of the goats and, in fact, we sought a proposal for relocation from the Feral Goat Research Group when we were drawing up the herbivore management plan for the site in 2012, though unfortunately none was forthcoming.
Whilst it is too late to alter our plans for this round of goat management which concludes at the end of December 2013, we remain fully open to consideration of a viable plan for next year from a third party, provided that it meets all appropriate animal welfare, legal, health and safety and other requirements, and is fully budgeted and resourced
Update: We have requested a meeting with Scotland for Animals on December 9th and are waiting for a response.
You may have noticed Inversnaid was in the press earlier this week, specifically our work to control feral goat numbers on the reserve.
The decision to control feral goats on the reserve is not one the RSPB takes lightly. In fact our policy is only to do so where there is absolutely no alternative and that’s very much the case here.
The woodlands at Inversnaid are internationally important, and an example of an increasingly rare habitat (Western Atlantic oak woodland) which is protected for its amazing lichens, mosses and liverworts. Of course designations like SSSI and SACs mean little to a goat when they are munching through the forest. That’s where the problem lies, natural regeneration in the woodland is being prevented by browsing animals and as such, no new trees are able to establish. These woodlands are home to many amazing species such as pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers, pine martens and wildcats, as well as a wide range of very special and wonderfully named moss species like spotty fingers and MacKay’s pouncewort . The lichens, mosses and liverworts make it Scotland’s answer to rainforest, if a little colder than the ones in the southern hemisphere.
As landowners of the site, and as one of the largest nature conservation charities in Europe, we have a duty to keep the SSSI in good condition. Indeed Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) asked us to reduce the number of goats so that the woodland would start to regenerate. We are not eradicating the goats, a smaller, viable population will remain. The goats are literally eating themselves out of house and home and we need to find a way to balance the number of herbivores with the ongoing existence of this incredibly precious place.
As we said at the beginning, this is never a decision RSPB takes lightly, we genuinely have looked to find a viable alternative but there doesn’t appear to be one. It’s a difficult decision but if we don’t do anything we risk threatening other wildlife which relies on the health of the Inversnaid woodlands. Nature in the UK is already struggling and the RSPB, like all of us, has a moral obligation to do all we can to protect it.