Wategoat Guy Hastings

The one that goat away

SHE'S been called the last goat and Wategoat, but now the only remaining member of the herd removed from Cape Byron a decade ago is the one that goat away.

In an operation extraordinary in scope, the RSPCA, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Brunswick Valley Rescue Service, a police officer and a veterinarian teamed up at dawn yesterday morning to "rescue" the goat, believed to have been stuck at the bottom of a cliff at Cape Byron for about two weeks.

"She looked in a horrible way," said Alison Reid, a daily visitor to the lighthouse.

"I reckon she's been down there for nearly two weeks.

"And she's skinnier; much skinnier."

The plan had been for a couple of people to lug one of the stretchers they use to rescue people who fall from cliffs down to the goat, hit her with a tranquiliser and pull her back up so she could be sent to live out her days at a farm, just as the rest of Cape Byron's hapless herd had been in 2003.

It looked like the jig was up for Byron Bay's furriest fugitive.

However, the goat had other ideas. One look at her abseiling "saviours" and Speedy Goatzales was off like ... well ... like a goat up a cliff.

It turns out she wasn't stuck at the bottom of the cliff after all. She just liked it there.

Within moments she was well away from the rescue team and enjoying a brunch of grass below the old lighthouse keeper's cottage.

Eventually, the rescue team realised they were beat and called off the operation - for now. They said park rangers would be keeping an eye on the goat and would return if it looked unwell.

Wategoat began her life as part of the herd established on the cape when the lighthouse was built back in 1901.

The herd became something like a cross between a town mascot and a tourist attraction for the Bay, but in 2003 National Parks and Wildlife Service decided the herd was like Goatzilla to the native plants of the cape and it was best to be rid of them.

The other goats were captured and sent to a farm where, locals were promised, they would live out their days in comfort, but Wategoat eluded capture and quickly became the rallying point of a movement to have the herd returned to the cape.

That movement fizzled fairly quickly and the last goat continued to elude humans - regardless of whether they wanted her to stay or go.

At some point rumours began circulating that she had been annoying wealthy Wategos residents by jumping on their roofs and waking them during the night. It's not clear whether those rumours were true, but the legend stuck and she became the Wategoat.