Goats

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Capra hircus

Feral goats have long been a scourge of native Hawaiian plants. They breed rapidly and have no predators other than occasional hunters. Native forests have been decimated by their browsing activities, and many native species have become extinct due to their depradations.

Goats were introduced to the main islands in 1793 and 1794 by Captain George Vancouver, who was also responsible for the introduction of cattle to Hawaii. These first goats reproduced rapidly, thriving in Hawaii's vulnerable ecosystems. Because Hawaii has no native browsing or grazing mammals, the islands' plants evolved without defenses such as thorns, poisons, or foul taste, so there was nothing to stop, or even to slow, the appetite of these efficient browsing animals.

Over the past thirty years the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy have worked hard to build extensive fences around the land under their management. Given the rough terrain and remote locations this has been an astonishing, and very successful, effort. Goats, cattle, pigs, and deer outside the fences are prevented from coming into the protected lands. Animals inside the fences are removed. The results are obvious in places such as Haleakalā Crater, where once denuded landscapes are turning green again.

Native forests and shrublands simply cannot coexist with feral goats, cattle, pigs, or deer. Lands must be protected, or more and more Hawaii species will be lost to extinction until the native forests that once thrived in these islands are utterly gone.

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