New national feral goat plan welcomed but requires funding

Invasive Species


The Invasive Species Council has welcomed the release today by Environment Minister Plibersek of a new national plan to tackle feral goats.

The draft threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by unmanaged goats outlines new and continuing actions needed to reduce the huge environmental impact of feral goats, including through overgrazing and soil erosion.

“Feral goats are one of the worst invasive species in Australia. They stop regeneration of bushland, overgraze, outcompete native animals, erode our soils and stream banks and reduce carbon storage in the landscape,” said Lyall Grieve, Conservation and Biosecurity Analyst for the Invasive Species Council.

“This is an important plan which outlines some ambitious objectives that if funded, prioritised and implemented fully will go some way to reduce the impacts of goats on our environment.  

“The focus on island eradications is particularly important as we know this is achievable and will lead to huge biodiversity benefits.

“Minister Plibersek has now released a feral deer plan, a feral cat plan, a feral goat plan and made strong statements on the need for urgent action on feral horses. 

“This is very welcome and important, but in order to make a real difference on the ground we need the Albanese government to back up their words with significant new money so that these plans can be implemented.

“The plan does not resolve the ongoing conflict between the huge environmental impact of feral goats and the commercial drive that keeps their numbers high in western NSW. 

“Feral goats are a textbook example of why setting up a market for feral animals almost always fails to reduce their numbers and impact on the landscape.

“Ever since feral goat harvesting was actively promoted by government programs in western NSW, their numbers have exploded.
“There are now over 5 million feral goats in western NSW which is almost a ten fold increase since commercial harvesting was promoted as a way to get their numbers down in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We will never get on top of the feral goat problem while they are treated as a commodity for some rather than a pest.”

“The next step after the release of this plan, must be federal and state funding for long term suppression programs and ongoing research into new, effective control options,” said Mr Grieve.

Background notes

  • Competition and land degradation by feral goats is listed as a Key Threatening Process (KTP) under federal environment law (the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) because they cause significant habitat degradation and compete with native animals for food.
  • Endangered wildlife threatened with extinction due to feral goats include the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, the Broad-headed Snake, Malleefowl and the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby, as well as many endangered plants.
  • The draft threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by unmanaged goats aims to identify actions needed to reduce the threat of feral goats to the environment.
  • The draft plan finds that “Predation by dingoes, access to artificial watering points and control measures are the main influences on the distribution and abundance of unmanaged goats in Australia.”
  • The draft plan also finds that “The perception of unmanaged goats as both a pest and a resource has caused conflict, and increased challenges to their management for biodiversity outcomes in some parts of Australia.”
  • Unmanaged goats occur in every state and territory across an estimated 2 million km² of Australia, including some offshore islands.
  • In western NSW, feral goat numbers have increased almost 10 fold in recent decades from an estimated 532,145 in 1999 to 4,993,531 in 2020. This increase has occurred as governments have encouraged harvesting of feral goats for commercial sale.
  • There have been numerous successful goat island eradications, including on Kangaroo Island and Dirk Hartog Island.
  • Feral goats are still present and established on more than 35 offshore islands, including islands within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The eradication of feral goats on French Island, identified as a priority place under the threatened species plan in Victoria, is underway.
  • The draft plan is open for public consultation and submissions are due by 7 February 2024.The recent UN Invasive Alien Species report released in September found that Australia has close to 3000 invasive alien species, estimated to cost Australia approximately $25 billion every year in losses to agriculture and management costs.
  • The federal government also released the Threatened Species Action Plan 2022-2032 in October last year, with a goal of zero extinctions by 2030.

About the Invasive Species Council

The Invasive Species Council campaigns for stronger laws, policies and programs to protect Australia’s native plants and animals from environmental weeds, feral animals and other invaders.

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