The Lost Goats of the Valley of Rocks

Male goat lost to photographersThis goat was one of the most photographed males, favoured by tourists in the Valley of Rocks (VoR), usually feeding with the female goats. Never seen on Hollerday Hill but suspected to have recently been culled. Two tame domestic goats abandoned in the Valley were also culled. They had nothing to do with VoR goats and should have been handed over to the RSPCA.

The goats were killed based on a Council resolution to "take immediate action as a matter of urgency to remove by any means necessary those goats that are currently causing a nuisance." (April 04 ) Failing to relocate some goats in a short period of time, the cull followed

We have been told that 9 goats were killed. Apparently, at least the above 3 goats were misidentified. It seems the marksmen were in the wrong place, in the Valley and not on the Hill and could not identify the goats required to be culled according to the resolution.. Or were they selected for other reasons?

The Town Clerk said the expert had recommended the culling of a number of goats to enable the herd to remain genetically viable. But fewer than that number had been killed.(NDJ 29.07.04)

But biologically, reducing the numbers, reduces the genetic viability, unless you wish to select for certain racial features.

Was this not a case of attempting to further select pure breed Cheviot stock and remove genetic elements of the two tame domestic goats and the male British Saanan goats (The latter have large horns valued by some as trophy souvenirs).

To date, there is no evidence of any documentation or description /photographs of the goats culled, which does help any attempt to document the herd for a future management plan.There is not even an attempt to link the culled goats to those mentioned in the Council Resolution. It seems possible that the wrong goats were culled; genetic selection/viability was not specifically covered by the Council’s resolution. In fact Cllr. Sims had said that " a management plan would need to be put in place for future use".(NDJ 29.04.04) . So this topic should have been reviewed under this proposed plan.

The Council had stated a willingness to co-operate with Friends of the Goats on matters of policy,(NDJ 05.08.04) but does not do this. Friends were not consulted, nor even told about, the cull and, as yet, not received an answer to the request for information of the cost involved. One can estimate the costs of this cull (marksmen, council worker’s time transport and incineration of the bodies) to be about £1000. This amount of money could have paid for fencing along the borders of the Council’s property with the gardens involved, in addition to those already aided by the Friends. The Town Clerk (NDJ 29.07.04) stated ". We are actually managing the herd as any farmer would" followed by an announcement that no goat fencing will be provided. (NDJ 05.08.04). Good farmers have good fencing.

What happened to Council’s concern for loved ones buried in the cemetery. Will it also remain unprotected, giving another excuse for a next cull. ?


The Remaining goats

Goat look-out Goat on view

· The goats play an important role in the grazing ecology of the Valley of Rocks.

· They are a tourist asset and attraction.

· They become a problem when The Council does not maintain fencing on its property


Ecological Role

Goats controlling vegetation Goats controlling vegetation

The goats play a role in controlling the spread of sycamore in the Valley and surprisingly also control Rhododendron – avoiding the leaves but eating the stem bark.

Goat on steep slope

Goats at present

Goat group above sea

Currently the goats are rarely to be seen in the Valley itself but seem to spend much time on the lower cliffs , probably due to visitor pressure and regular visits of rock climbing groups to Castle Rock. In this grazing area it is impossible to make a count of the population, though about 55 have been seen.

Goats on Hollerday Hill

Towards a management Plan

The Kashmiri goats on Great Orme (some 186 ++) are part of an organized management plan which is also needed in Lynton to prevent repeats of these useless culls.

See: http://www.llandudno.com/goats.html

Management Plan: http://www.conwy.gov.uk/doc.asp?cat=1915&doc=1679

FoG

Moroccan goat in tree.At present the goat consultant of the Council prefers the smaller pure breed Cheviot goat stock as opposed to VoR stock which is hybridized with British Saanan Goats. These are the large horned male goats, some of which have just been culled. The Cheviot stock, introduced to improve the variability were not hefted in the region and have given some problems. Why not reinforce the VoR hybrid stock with new blood from the Atlas Mountains. They have fantastic tree climbing abilities when searching for Argan oil nuts. A short acclimitization programme, spraying sycamore fruits with Argan oil, could lead to a major tourist attraction and help in the problem of Sycamore invasion.

C.E.Ridsdale


Genuine photo Moroccan Goat in Argan Tree