Sustainability Environment

Hawaii to give away invasive goats ravaging a historical site

hawaii hawai'i governor david ige goats wilf feral raffle lottery island invasive species historic site culture national park
Wild goats are seen in the lava fields during the Ironman World Championships on October 12, 2019 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Getty Images

Story at a glance

  • A herd of invasive goats threaten the ecosystem of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, a protected historical site on Hawaii.
  • Goats are not native to the islands and stand to harm native species through grazing.
  • To humanely relocate the animals, goats will be given to qualifying raffle winners.

An invasive goat population swarming one of Hawaii’s cultural heritage sites is set to be removed and relocated by the state government in a “goat salvage project.”

Gov. David Ige (D) issued a press release saying that Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, a designated national park home to cultural and historical Hawaiian significance, is now facing a large influx of invasive goats. 

To protect the 420 acres of the three impacted ahupua’a — a Hawaiian term for a specific section of land — the state Department of Natural Resources’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife plans to humanely trap and remove goats from the park and redistributed the animals to permitted members of the public.

The permits will be assigned to people through a lottery system at random, and applicants must meet certain qualifications to be eligible, including having a designated outdoor pen and space to harbor the goat.

Goats are not a native species to the Hawaiian islands and were introduced to the island by Captain James Cook in 1778, according to historical records

As the population grew, instances of feral goats began to emerge. As an herbivore, the goats are broadly harmful to the Hawaiian ecosystem. Experts note that since the Hawaiian islands do not have native grazing species like goats or other ungulates, they stand to decimate native endangered or endemic species. 

“Native plant communities are often unable to recover from the pressures of grazing and trampling,” experts at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the U.S. Department of Agriculture services wrote in a research paper

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services estimate that there are roughly 50,000 nonnative species of flora and fauna living in the U.S. About 4,300 of these species are considered invasive.