Goat brigades help battle Portugal’s deadly wildfires

Fernando Moura and his herd may not look like heroes but the Portuguese farmer and his 370 goats are the latest recruits in the country’s battle against summer forest fires.

Hoping to contain wildfires that threaten its mountains each year, Portugal’s government has hired goats to munch through undergrowth and create natural, cost-effective fire barriers.

Soaring temperatures often spark blazes across Portugal’s mountain ranges, forcing authorities to dispatch hundreds of firefighters, soldiers and water- dumping aircraft.

More than 100 people were killed in the country’s wildfires last year, prompting criticism from firefighters over a lack of government coordination.

Portuguese shepherd Fernando Moura, 49, conducts his flock of goats near Loriga, at Serra da Estrela mountain, in center Portugal.

Moura’s four-legged brigade are part of a pilot project, started earlier this year, to clear combustible scrubland from some of Portugal’s major mountain ranges.

Authorities hope the firefighting goats will help stop blazes spreading from one forest to another and better contain any fires.

“In the past we never used to have such massive fires like today. We used to have thousands of animals cleaning up by grazing and there were hundreds of herders like me,” Moura told AFP.

“Now I am almost the last.”

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