Kangaroo Island Free of Goats - 1200 Down

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Nick Markopoulos feral animal project officer at Natural resources Kangaroo Island (NRKI). Has managed to eradicate 1200 feral goats from a 4400 square kilometre island. 

This project was a difficult one that required huge determination and passion. The total eradication of feral goats on Kangaroo Island was celebrated at an official function on June 12.

The Islander Online reported the goat eradication spanned a long 12-years with Mr Markopoulos bing involved since the beginning.

Goats arrived on Kangaroo Island with the very first early settlers 200 years ago and have been running wild ever since.

The Island was divided into seven management units and the goats were systematically removed from each unit.

It started with a relatively small herd in the Parndana area that was monitored and tracked using a “Judas goat” fitted with a radio tracking collar.

“The Judas system exploits the gregarious nature of the goats that don’t like to be alone,” Mr Markopoulos said. “The radio tracker allowed us to subsequently find and eventually eliminate all the goats in the mob.”

Once the two feral animal protection officers had eliminated the Parndana mob, they then moved into other goat populations within Flinders Chase National Park at locations including Cape du Couedic.

Individual mobs were then systematically eliminated around the west coast until the last few remaining goats were limited to the area around Western River.

The goat eradication program was thrown a lifeline when the then Federal Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory 

Andrews secured additional funding.

“Toward the end of 2014/2015 the program really struggled and we could not just get a visual on the goats out at Western River,” Mr Markopoulos said.

“So we went heavy on the motion sensor cameras and captured all the remaining goats on camera and created a hit list identifying each individual goat based on their unique markings.”

They then knew exactly what goats remained and went out about eradicating every last animal, still using the system of a Judas goat.

The last free-ranging feral goat, a nanny goat, was shot on February 17, 2016 in the Western River Wilderness Protection Area.

“After months of failed attempts, I vividly remember shooting the very last nanny goat and that was after three weeks of intensively tracking her,” he said. “And at the same time Brenton then removed her kid.”

The last remaining Judas goat was allowed to roam free for another 12 months, just to make sure there no other goats remaining.

The camera monitoring also continued for two years and there were also regular patrols on foot and also aerial surveys, looking for any evidence before the official declaration was made.

“We knew the job had been done, but we had to prove it, so we continued with the monitoring” he said. 

Mr Markopoulos paid tribute to the rest of the team at NRKI, including Mr Florance and former NRM feral animal project team leader Pip Masters, as well as the volunteer hunters and Friends of Parks.

“We also had very good relationships with landowners, who were essential for the success of the project,” he said.

“We had a good trusting relationship and both Brenton and I had the respect of the community, which made a big difference.”

And he was already seeing the impact the removal of the goats and their eventual eradication was having.

“Since the removal of the goats, I’ve been really impressed with the transformation of the coast as the vegetation has started coming back,” he said.

The irony is that just as Mr Markopoulos and the NRKI team have finished their amazing work, he is leaving his beloved island home as funding for the Kangaroo Island feral animal project has dried up, for now.

This despite the Island’s feral cat and pig populations still being firmly on the radar of land managers and would greatly benefit from additional resources and the retention of his expertise.

Nick has accepted a position with the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Game Council where he will be overseeing compliance of hunters.

The last goat to be culled on the island.
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