Where Angels Fear To Tread

Peter Bosshard

Goats have often had a bad rap. In biblical times, villagers burdened scapegoats with their sins and sent them into the desert. The devil is often portrayed with a goat’s head or hooves. And the proverbial journey from hero to goat is rarely a happy one.

Goats, the ultimate survivors, have weathered all storms and outlived all metaphors. In Italy’s Antrona Valley, a stone’s throw from the Swiss border, you can now find them grazing on the barren walls of the Cingino Dam. On the pictures to your left and below you will see wild Ibex goats licking salt and other minerals from the sheer precipice of the 51 meters high dam wall. (Video footage is also available on Youtube.)

Wild goats on the Cingino Dam
Wild goats on the Cingino Dam

Dam builders may use the pictures as proof that dams provide some unexpected benefits in spite of all their negative impacts. Dam busters may find hope in the fact that if we can’t decommission dams, goats can at least re-commission them. In the meantime I tip my hat to the fearless climbers and am impressed by how nature reclaims her rights 80 years after the dam was built.

Peter Bosshard is the policy director of International Rivers. He blogs at www.internationalrivers.org/en/blog/peter-bosshard