THE man who has taken responsibility for the 15 Great Orme goats recently moved to Bournemouth has reassured Llandudno residents they are in safe hands with him.
Mark Jackson is looking after the Kashmir goats after Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) was involved in collecting the group and rehoming them to the south coast.
Mark says he cares for about “45 to 50 goats” and said the recent arrivals will be in “goat heaven”, with plenty of space to roam in large enclosures on the west and east cliffs of Bournemouth.
He was keen to allay fears among some residents after receiving online abuse following his sharing of pictures of the Great Orme goats in Bournemouth on his Facebook page, Bournemouth East Cliff Goats.
Mark said: “I’ve had that they’ve been stolen, I’ve been told never to come back to Wales; I’ve had a fair bit of insults – more from this than when I actually lived in Wales, when I was at university.
“Several of them have spoken to me and have realised that, hopefully, I’m not a bad man, and written some positive things.
“I do the ‘environmental grazing’ for the (Bournemouth) council on the clifftop. I’ve had goats for about 14 years now myself, my German relatives have goats, and my great-great-grandfather was one of the national goat judges in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
“Goats have always been involved within my family, and I have a small herd of Boer goats for environmental grazing.
“We’re going do a proper breeding project with them (Great Orme goats), every year or other year. We’ve separated the boys from the girls, so we’ll then get to know which Bucks (male goats) go to what girls.
“We’ll do it all nice and properly and above board. I can’t see what the problem is, but there seem to be a few people having a go at me.”
The goats on the Great Orme were originally a gift to Lord Mostyn from Queen Victoria and have roamed in a wild state for roughly 100 years.
As well as the 15 rehoused to Bournemouth, another group was collected by CCBC from private grounds in Craig-y-Don and moved to the Great Orme, meaning there are now roughly 150 goats in Llandudno.
Having helped with a roundup of the goats last year, and having offered his help to CCBC whenever necessary, Mark was happy to take on the extra 15.
He also stressed the importance of not allowing land to “overgraze”, as may have been the case in Llandudno had goats overpopulated a particular area of the town.
Mark added: “We came up (to North Wales) last year with a lot of other people from different parts of the UK to help with the roundup, check on the number of the goats, and do the health checks.
“We were allowed to take away some goats, and another from Bristol took some others, to lower some of the numbers.
“Obviously, if you overgraze an area, you have to manage the number of animals you have to the area of land.
“You just can’t allow everything to keep on breeding and eating, and never do anything about the numbers. There has to be a compromise.
“We know this because of the New Forest (national park on the Hampshire/Dorset border between Southampton and Bournemouth), because of all the deer in the forest.
“If you don’t keep the deer under a certain number, they will overgraze and become diseased and die out.
“They regulate how many ponies and pigs go into the forest in the autumn, and how many cattle are allowed on, so you have to control the numbers that are there.”
Fears for the goats’ safety were also raised last year after a “baby boom” of the goats, when 25 Nannies and five Billies were moved to either Bristol or Bournemouth.
A round-up was also considered by CCBC last October after one of the goats had to be put down after being hit by a car.
Mark added that the goats will also be used to graze back overgrown land on Bournemouth’s cliff fronts, in a town which has been a home to such animals for a number of years.
He added: “If you’ve got a rare breed like the Kashmir goats, you need to have pockets in different areas of the UK, so that if anything ever happened, they would be able to call back and get some more animals back in.
“We’re more than happy to do that. We’re not trying to hide them, or to tell people they’re ours and nobody else’s and to go away.
“I understand the ones in Llandudno are important and special. I don’t plan to cull any of the Kashmirs.
“I’m actually in contact with several of the other places in the UK who have had the Great Orme goats sent to them, and I’ve been speaking with the Windsor Great Park, trying to see if there are any pockets of the old Windsor Great Herd left in the UK.
“They have been put on the west and east cliffs of Bournemouth. I have grazing from Southbourne, which is near Hengistbury Head (headland), almost all the way up to Poole Harbour.
“The cliff front in front of the beach and to the overdrives have been overgrown. The initial plan is to graze the land back and get it back to grassland, so we can have other rare breed plants that are being killed off.
“The goats are ideal to graze that back slowly, over a number of years, so that they don’t weaken the cliff by overgrazing it. It’ll be a 10-12-year project.”
With the goats in enclosures of between two to nine acres in size, and plenty of space to roam in, Mark promised they would be well cared-for, acknowledging that these animals are “important and special” to the Llandudno community.
Mark is also to keep in contact with CCBC should his help be required again, and also plans to use some of the goats for breeding purposes.
He said: “The goats are in enclosures. We’ve got a couple of small enclosures which are about two acres in size, which we’ll be using for breeding purposes when we want to put a set number of Nannies in with one Billy, and the other enclosures go up to about eight or nine acres in size.
“They (enclosures) are not small. It sometimes takes me an hour or two to find the goats in the enclosures. It’s not as if they’re in a petting zoo, which people have been telling us.
“If Llandudno ever need anything back, we’re here to help. We’re not trying to do anything underhand or behind the scenes.
“I’m in contact with several members of CCBC. Several of them are followers on my Facebook page, and know what our setup is.
“I have plenty of space on the enclosures that we haven’t yet fully filled, and so from everyone’s point of view, it was a ‘win-win’.
“The goats get a nice, safe home. They can do ‘environmental grazing’ and eat and sleep and be as happy as Larry, and don’t have to be pestered.
“We’re keeping the girls and boys separate. We’ve got nine new enclosures, which are not small. They have plenty of room to roam and forage in. They’re in goat heaven.”
Last week, residents of Craig-y-Don raised concerns about goats remaining on and around the Liddell Park estate.
Such issues with the goats have included destruction of gardens and faeces being left on the pavements and roads.
After the goats’ rehoming, CCBC said:
A council statement said: “Working with partners who have an interest in the Great Orme goats’ welfare, we recently collected a group of billy goats from private grounds in Craig-y-Don and transported them to the Great Orme.
“Since 2001, the welfare group has been managing the size of the herd using contraception and occasionally relocating groups of goats to conservation organisations and sites in the UK.
“15 goats have now been rehomed to Bournemouth – the animals travelled well and are settling into their new surroundings.”