Bilberry Goats of Waterford


“Staggering response to petition” – article
August 29, 2006, 8:15 pm
Filed under: General

This article was published in the Waterford News & Star on Friday August 25th 2006
http://www.waterford-news.ie/news/story.asp?j=22951

Staggering response to ‘save the goats’ petition
By Jennifer Long

A STAGGERING 17,000 signatures have been amassed on a special petition calling for the protection of the goats of Bilberry Rock.
Since the petition was first circulated in June, it has attracted “over-whelming support” from the people of Waterford and beyond, according to members of the newlyformed Bilberry Goat Herd Preservation Trust who organised it.

In addition, since the plight of the Bilberry Goats was featured on the front page of the Waterford News & Star around the same time, they’ve been the subject of major international publicity.

Stories highlighting their situation subsequently appeared in all of the major national newspapers in Ireland, and on the national radio stations, but also in media further afield.

The major newspaper in Malta (there’s a Maltese breed of goat) has run a story on the Waterford goats, the exact origin of which will be determined by DNA testing prior to Christmas.

Many of the English newspapers, including the Daily Tele -graph, have also picked it up as has The Irish Emigrant which offers news online for the global Irish community.

“The response has been absolutely amazing,” said Martin Doyle, proprietor of The Cosy Thatch pub in Kilmeaden and member of the Bilberry Goat Herd Preservation Trust.

“We’ve been amazed by the amount of publicity that has been generated and that was always our aim; to raise awareness of these animals and then to lobby for something to be done to protect them.” “The Irish Wildlife Trust, who’ve been hugely supportive, also have an article called ‘Waterford’s Unique Bilberry Goats – A Living History’ in the August edition of their magazine.”

“They’ve set up a website for us too (www.bilberrygoats.wordpress.com) which has information on the goats as well as on the aims of the trust.”

“We’ve also been inundated with emails from ordinary people giving their support for what’s being done – and others even asking for directions to Bilberry Rock because they want to bring their children to see the goats which is something everybody locally should do.”

Martin Doyle said that the astounding success of the campaign petition and the publicity that had been generated, essentially meant that the focus of the Trust now now had to switch to actually getting the powers-that-be to sit up and take notice.

“We will be sending a letter to the Council now asking for something to be done to protect the land,” he said.

“It would be an absolute disgrace if this unique breed of goats is not saved from extinction.”

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Genetics of the Bilberry Goats
August 13, 2006, 7:35 pm
Filed under: News & Events

The Trust has recently sent (August 2006) biological samples of
the Bilberry Goats for genetic testing. This will
establish their origins and give a conclusive understanding
of their ancestors and when they came to Ireland.

The article below was published in the Waterford News & Star
on Friday 25th August:

Bilberry goats may turn out to be a rare breed
By Jennifer Long

THE world’s leading expert on goat breeds has recommended that steps be taken as a priority to protect the goats of Bilberry Rock in Waterford.
The plight of the 28 feral goats is now “critical” because of extremely low numbers, according to Dr. Raymond Werner in a new report published this month.

Dr Werner was one of a number of international goat experts who travelled to Waterford last year to view the unique goats whom are now threatened with extinction.

As it is, DNA tests are being carried out to determine the origin of the animals whom historians believe may have been brought ashore by French Hugenots who arrived in the city as many as 300 years ago.

The test results are due back by Christmas but in his new report Dr. Werner says there’s every chance the animals may indeed turn out to be a “rare breed”.

In the short-term, he says that the Bilberry herd, eight of which are female, has reached “critically low numbers” but points out that they can still be saved in their current location.

“The origin of the Bilberry goat is intriguing,” he says.

“Whether the breed was imported into Ireland comparatively recently, has a complex origin or represents a pure original breed with possibly some recent admixture, we cannot yet say,” he says.

“It remains a question mark in goat history that needs to be researched in detail. There is every possibility that it may turn out to be a rare breed and for this reason alone its preservation is imperative.”

Dr. Werner, who is a founder of the British Native Goat Preservation Society, says that the Bilberry goats fit the type, for whatever reason, of the Cold Weather Goat and also the Central Asian Pashmina Down Breed Group.

Last year, a member of the National Dutch Landrance Goat Society who also examined the breed, said there were no signs of weakness or inbreeding. He also said that the place where the animals were kept was critical to their survival.

Bilberry Rock, on which the animals graze, is 14 acres in size but is under imminent threat from development since part of the former commonage was recently sold by City Council for this purpose.

However, following the latest report, members of the newly-formed ‘Bilberry Goat Herd Preservation Trust’ say they will begin to seriously lobby City Manager Conn Murray to act to save the goats.

“It’s of vital importance that we protect this land for these animals,” said trust member Catherine Carroll from Ferrybank.

“I think it’s an absolute scandal that the goats are being threatened with extinction; these are extremely special animals that we have on our doorsteps in Waterford and it’s no longer good enough that the Council, or indeed the Minister for the Environment, doesn’t seem to care.”

“The trust has the support of the various experts, the Irish Wildlife Trust, as well as the people of Waterford whom genuinely seem to care about these animals.”

“I’ve been helping to feed them for many years and I just believe someone has to do something before they’re lost to us for good.”



Contact Us
August 13, 2006, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Contact

The Bilberry Goat Herd Protection Trust’s
email is bilberrygoats@eircom.net

Comments Off on Contact Us


About the Bilberry Goats
August 13, 2006, 7:27 pm
Filed under: General

This article, by Conor Kelleher, will feature in the next edition of the magazine of the Irish Wildlife
Trust – http://www.iwt.ie

The Bilberry goat is an impressively large stocky animal with short legs
and a beautifully long silken shaggy coat. Their beards are long as is the
fringe of hair that covers some of the animals’ eyes. However, their most
impressive feature is their horns. These are heavy and long – very long!

During my visit I met several members of the BGHPT who have cared for
these animals on a daily basis for many y They are caretakers who take their
role very seriously and some are the descendents of parents and grandparents
who performed the same duties for the herd in their day. They ensure that the
goats are safe, have adequate water and supplement their grazing with
nuts. They also maintain the herd’s health with veterinary treatment.

Local historians believe that the goats were brought ashore by French
Huguenots who arrived in the city in 1693 but this is unproven and the
herd has been the subject of study by international goat specialists including
the British Feral Goat Research Group who inspected the herd in 2004. This
research group has over 40 years experience in the study of feral goats
and their findings on the Bilberry goats were remarkable. They stated that the
Bilberry animal “is a unique herd of feral goats unlike any other that we
have seen in Britain or Ireland”. They further state that the Bilberry
goats “appear to be based on cashmere or possibly Maltese bloodlines and yet
they do not seem to fully match any of the documented breeds”.

Another expert, Raymond Werner, an internationally renowned goat expert,
in a report in July 2006 on the Bilberry goat herd states: “that it fits the
type, for whatever reason, of the Cold Weather goat in general and the
Central Asian Pashmina Down Breed Group in particular, it remains,
therefore, a question mark in goat history that needs to be researched in
detail. There is every possibility that it may turn out to be a rare
breed, and for this reason alone, its preservation is imperative”.

Robert-Jan Prins, of the Landelijke Fokkersclub Nederlandse Landgeiten
(National Dutch Landrace Goat Society), stated of the herd that: “there
were no signs of weakness or inbreeding. As with every landrace, the place
where the animals are kept is critical for the survival of the breed. A location
as Bilberry Rock contains, even for a region, unique minerals. According
to the historical facts the herd has been on Bilberry Rock for many
generations (over 100 years).

Because of this it is undesirable to choose another location for starting
a conservation programme. The risk of disturbing an already unstable basis,
by mineral shortness or surplus or otherwise by stress, is irresponsible”.
The British Feral Goat Research Group further stated that “it is imperative
that the herd is safeguarded. The stress of rounding up and moving to
an alternative location could have disastrous consequences in view of
the small number of females”.

Bilberry Rock, on which the goats graze, is approximately 14 acres in size
and is under imminent threat from development. Part of this commonage was
recently sold by Waterford City Council for residential development
despite its own Action Area Plan envisioning the area of Bilberry Rock remaining
as a public open space. Should this be allowed then the future of the goat
herd is in serious jeopardy. In the past, the herd was much larger and had a
larger area in which to roam. Now only 28 remain and, with only eight
females, the herd has a much skewed sex ratio which increases the herd’s
vulnerability.

The Bilberry Goat Herd Preservation Trust has launched a campaign and
petition to safeguard the future of this unique animal. They have written
to several Ministers of the Environment, including Mr. Martin Cullen, who
grew up next to Bilberry Rock, to date without success and have only received a
‘standard’ reply from the Taoiseach’s office referring the matter to Mr.
Dick Roche, T.D. The people of Waterford are fully behind the campaign to
safeguard the future of ‘their’ goats, currently, 17,000 people have
signed the petition which is remarkable – more signatures than the petition for a
cancer ward in Waterford’s Regional Hospital!

The herd is registered with the Department of Agriculture who fully
supports the present breeding programme and the retention of the herd on Bilberry
Rock as well as plans to develop the herd in the national interest.ss.