Saba Goats: Spawns of The Devil or Furry Island Friends?
No one on Saba is indifferent to the goats that roam the island’s rugged cliffs and shrubbery; everyone has an opinion, and usually a strong one. It happens to be baby season right now for these furry flora munchers, so I see baby kids running under their parents legs everywhere, and they bleat if they get separated (like, for instance, when a large person such as me bumbles down one of the hiking trails after only half the family had crossed). In any case, they are a ubiquitous part of the island, and one of the key features I remembered from back in the 90’s when I first sailed here on the Polynesia Windjammer.
It’s the usual suspects on both sides of the conversation: animal lovers vs the farmers getting their land chewed up, tourism stakeholders who get antsy when small platoons of goats start showing up in greater numbers the streets of the main villages. But the bottom line is that once the goat population crosses a certain threshold, they can clear out fragile plant ecosystems like nobody’s business, so its agreed that every few years or so, the government issues gun licenses to a select few, and authorizes a trimming back of the goat population. It’s very much like the deer population control practiced in the US. However, the wrinkle and complication of all this is tied to the ambiguity of property lines and ownership dating back many generations; if a goat is taken out, it’s very possible the Saban land owner where the goat was dropped will ask to be paid a renumeration. So a lot of planning and coordination has to happen with locals, landowners, government, and the conservation bureau before anything happens.
In any case, this guy in the picture doing his wall balance is quite a bit fatter than most of the goats I see, as they’ve bred themselves down in size over the years they’ve been here. He almost looks like he’s napping, eh?