Goats become the latest firefighting tool in Portugal
Goats. They’re notorious for eating anything, and now their insatiable appetites are being put to good use.
Dozens of goat herds are being deployed across parts of Portugal to try and reduce the fuel load ahead of the upcoming bushfire season.
Last year, 106 Portuguese lost their lives when wildfires tore through farming communities.
Many more lost their homes, vehicles and businesses.
Herds of more than 200 goats are being hired by the Portuguese government to chew through thick, dry, highly flammable vegetation.
The strategy has proven successful in the past.
Local farmer Daniel Fernandes, 61, says goats protected his property from a major blaze in 2004.
“The pastures were clean because they (the goats) walk around and eat everything as the pastures are dry.”
Portugal’s Forest and Rural Development Minister said: “The big highways of prevention against wildfires … can give predictability to the herders.”
In the United States, a similar strategy is being used.
Californian authorities are using goat herds to reduce vegetation in steep, rocky areas where access is difficult for firefighters.
So, could this same firefighting strategy be used in Australia?
Unfortunately no, says Ben Shepherd from the Rural Fire Service.
“Whilst it has been considered here, our vegetation, our native flora and fauna doesn’t really work as well," Mr Shepherd told 9NEWS.
"While goats have been used in Australian agricultural areas to manage the spread of blackberries and weeds, they’re not suitable for hazard reduction work."
And so, with just eight weeks before the official fire season gets underway in Australia, residents are being reminded to get their homes ready for the upcoming bushfire season.