The goats have lived wild on the island of Palmaria off the coast of Liguria in northern Italy since the 1960s and are considered an invasive species.
No one is entirely sure how many goats are on the island but as the human population has dwindled to just 30 people, the goats have become an increasingly common sight on the island’s steep cliffs.
The goats make the island popular with visiting tourists but eat the island’s native plants and trample residents’ crops, making them a nuisance for the islanders.
The island is part of an archipelago which has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site and the regional government has come to an agreement with Italian animal protection charity, Enpa, after years of trying to rid it of the goats.
Following a national furore in 2016 when reports emerged the island’s mayor was considering a cull, Enpa has now launched an ambitious operation to begin repatriating the goats to the mainland.
The operation began at the weekend and is expected to take around a year to complete.
They will initially carry out a “goat census” to find out exactly how many are on the island, using baited traps to lure goats which can be fitted with tracking collars, The Local reported.
The goats will be checked by vets and then shipped to a farm on the mainland where they will be kept in quarantine before being sent to their new home.
Enpa is inviting Italians to apply to adopt a goat but stressed they must be intended as a pet – not dinner.
Enpa’s vice president Massimo Pigoni told Italian newspaper La Stampa: “Only 100 per cent cruelty-free adoptions are being considered.
“So once they leave the island, we have to be sure that these animals won't end up at the end of a shotgun or in a cooking pot, nor put into production. Careful, though, they're not indoor animals and they can't be kept on a leash like a dog.”
Enpa has also launched a crowdfunding page to help it cover its expenses during the rescue operation.
“There are the costs of capturing the goats, transporting them, keeping them, the considerable costs of vet care and checks before and after adoption; costs to be borne until the last goat has reached its destination. In safety. Loved, cared for, protected,” Mr Pigoni explained.
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