Heritage Goats

An exciting fact has recently become apparent on Middle Percy Island, in that some of our heritage goats introduced to the Island by the Royal Navy in 1874 by Staff Commander Bedwell of the HM schooner ‘Pearl’  may have originated from India. There is a strong similarity to the Indian Black Nepal goat breed and we are waiting for the genetic tests to be completed. The ‘Pearl’ was given the mission of leaving goats and planting coconuts and other edible fruits from the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, to the islands, in order to provide food stocks for passing vessels plying the Queensland coast.

European settlement was established two years later, in 1876, and the goats utilised by the Island residents to provide themselves and visitors meat, milk and skins for over 130 years.

The first goat herd recorded as being domesticated was by Jimmy Joss, Mason and Smith. These men were rumoured to have been searching for gold on the Island but ended up bartering and selling produce to the passing vessels. They requested the first Government Leasehold of the Island in 1875 as they had built their home, gardens and animal paddocks behind the tidal lagoon at West Bay. Interestingly this was the lifestyle envisaged by Captain Mathew Flinders when he named the Island in 1802.

In 1887 the Armitage family took over the Lease, as coffee growers, and had the Homestead built near the top of the Island, close to the water source. In 1921 the White family, from Canada via New Zealand, managed to “make a living off the sheeps’ back”. They cleared the land by ring-barking trees to make paddocks for 2,000 head of sheep, a few cattle and horses.

The next permanent Island resident arrived in 1964, being my cousin Andrew Martin, when he purchased the remainder of the Pastoral Lease under the Lands Act. The sheep market declined, so Andy chose to manage the Rangeland goats and to again provide food and skins to the new breed of mariner; the cruising yachties and fishermen. He also started an apiary which has since proved its National importance, being far enough away from the mainland to be protected from contamination of destructive honey bee diseases.

The Island is now under the Nature Conservation Act which has many categories of protection. Unfortunately the recently named ‘national park’ status of 83% of the Island prevents the goats from being recognised as a European Heritage animal. I understand that the lowly goat fed thousands of Australians in their developing years, and yet now they are now deemed as ‘feral’ and considered as pests! Like any animal, if it is kept at the appropriate carrying capacity, they can be an asset and not a problem. These animals keep the fuel load at a low risk, also providing meat, milk and skins. The Island  visitors enjoy the famous goat stews as well as observing the goats in the wild.

We need to find homes for these unique animals before they are all killed and their heritage destroyed by blinkered politicians.

The INDIAN BENGAL is similar to goats on Middle Percy Island

Indian Bengal Goats

Zara with All Black boy and British-Alpine boy born 8th April 2012Middle Percy Island goats; a black & white Doe can have different coloured kids according to Sires’ colouration (photo shows the old Blitz truck which has now been removed) 

The other colours available in this Island breed are greys and browns. The Billies mainly have long hair, and the does mainly short hair, although the blacks tend to have hairy back legs!. They are of small stature; standing to my knee at their shoulder. They can produce twins and triplets under domestication; however in the wild only single kids are the norm.

Please phone Cate on (07)49510993 if you would like a small herd of these lovely little animals. They make great pets if you want a milking doe with kid at foot that also keeps the vegetation under control.