The story of goats in Australia: unwelcome pest or valuable resource?

Goats are now a permanent feature of the Australian rangelands. A population of 4-6 million highly adapted wild goats currently share much of Australia’s semi-arid zone with domestic livestock and native herbivores. Goats have always been controversial in Australia, and there are two competing paradigms around them: pest or resource. Goats can significantly contribute to damaging grazing pressure, alongside domestic, other feral and native herbivores. At the same time, Australia leads the world in goat meat exports, with an industry that relies on harvesting wild goats for 95% of the supply. My research investigates how the rangeland goat industry is a complex and highly adaptive social ecological system. I used a combination of literature review, document analysis and interviews with a diversity of stakeholders involved in rangeland goats. I describe and assess the system drawing on the ‘cultural adaptation template’ framework from human ecology, and on principles from resilience thinking. I argue that there is a need for a ‘paradigm shift’ that moves towards collaborative management of rangeland goats for the mutual benefit of conservation and pastoral industries.

About the speaker

Marwan completed a B.Sc. in Agriculture and an M.Sc. in Animal Science at the American University of Beirut. After migrating to Australia, he was interested in doing a PhD on rangeland goats at the Fenner School of Environment and Society. This interest is primarily based on his own passion and fascination with goats. However, he was also very interested by the striking contrast between the perception of goats in his original homeland Lebanon, a Mediterranean country where these animals are valuable resources, and in Australia where goats are generally perceived as pests and often negatively stigmatised. Marwan had enjoyed a rewarding career as an animal scientist before starting his PhD, having worked as an animal nutrition consultant for 12 years overseas, then in RSPCA Australia as the Approved Farming Scheme standards and compliance manager. Through his research and future career plans, Marwan is keen to contribute to understanding the complex challenges facing agriculture and its people in Australia.