Get your goat: Italian island overrun by the animals offers to give them away

The mayor of a remote Italian island overrun by wild goats has offered to give the animals away to anyone willing to take one in.

Riccardo Gullo came up with the novel idea after a recent census estimated the number of goats on the five-square kilometre Alicudi, the smallest of Sicily’s Aeolian archipelago, was six times the island’s year-round population of 100.

The animals, adept at navigating Alicudi’s steep cliffs, once lived harmoniously alongside the human inhabitants and became as much of a tourist attraction as its dormant volcano.

But their number has grown so rapidly in recent years that they started to gravitate from their usual abode at the top of the island towards the inhabited area, damaging lush green vegetation, causing havoc in gardens and allotments, knocking away portions of stone walls and even wandering into people’s homes, prompting demands for a solution.

Alicudi, which is a two to three-hour boat ride from mainland Sicily, falls under the administration of the larger island of Lipari.

The “adopt a goat” initiative was deemed to be the best way of managing the issue in the most compassionate way.

“We absolutely do not want to even consider culling the animals, so we are encouraging the idea of giving them away,” said Gullo. “Anyone can make a request for a goat, it doesn’t have to be a farmer, and there are no restrictions on numbers.”

People have until 10 April to make their request. “We have already had several phone calls, including from a farmer on Vulcano island who would like to take several goats as, among other things, he produces a Riccota cheese which is much appreciated,” added Gullo. “If someone has the capacity to domesticate a goat, it could be a beautiful and more humane way to control the issue.”

Goats were first brought to Alicudi 20 years ago by, it is believed, someone who intended to breed the animals. But the plan fell by the wayside and the goats were left to their own devices. The problems caused by their growing population were first highlighted by Paolo Lo Cascio, a former councillor, in 2008.

“There needs to be a solution as the threat to the island’s vegetation is serious,” said Lo Cascio, who estimates the goat population at 800 rather than 600. “But Alicudi is a very complicated island, first you have to access it and then try to capture all the goats. There should have been an intervention 10 years ago.”

Gloria, who owns Golden Cafe Noir at Alicudi’s port, said the animals had become “unmanageable”. “They move around in packs and cause damage, there are just too many of them.” One used to come and sit under the table in her bar. “It was a bit of an attraction, but then you worried whether it might bite someone.” While she welcomed the initiative, she questioned its feasibility. Reaching the top of Alicudi, where the village is, involves a steep climb. “How will they bring the goats back down? Perhaps they would need a helicopter to transfer two or three at a time. It’s a nice proposal, but there is no logistical solution yet.”

The Guardian