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Utopia Goats

Utopia goats
Utopia bucks
(Photo by Jean Donaldson)

      According to Environment Canterbury, feral goats have populated Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, since the late nineteenth century but they increased in numbers during the 1980s as a result of the collapse of the goat industry and a subsequent reluctance to spend money recovering escapees. More recently goats were used as a tool for the management of gorse. Twenty years ago a group of concerned landowners, members of the public and the Department of Conservation formed a liaison group to institute some form of control, but it was not until 2003 that a feral goat control strategy aimed at totally eradicating the goats was put in place. Between 1990 and 2000 the Department of Conservation had controlled goats in its reserves to protect the indigenous vegetation, but these reserves were continually being reinfested from adjacent private land. However, by 2006 it was believed that the greater part of Banks Peninsula was free of feral goats and it would not be long before the last one was killed.

Utopia goats
Utopia goats, 2004   (Trotter/McCulloch photo)

      Anecdotal accounts have it that the Banks Peninsula feral goats included Arapawa goats that were deliberately released at one stage, and Angoras that escaped from a farm. In general. however, the Banks Peninsula feral goats looked much the same as well-established herds of feral goats found elsewhere in the country.

      During the early stages of the eradication programme, Canterbury farmer Warren Caesar rounded up about 250 of the feral goats from the Wainui area of Banks Peninsula. Amongst these were some with markedly long coats. By selecting for this trait, he has established a herd in which the long coat is a characteristic feature of mature adults (it does not show in younger goats). He has called these “Utopia” goats after the name of his property.

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