A campaign is under way to give legal protection to the Old Irish Goat, a rare species indigenous to Ireland.

The Director of the Old Goat Society in Mulranny, Co Mayo, said the breed is critically endangered, with an estimated population of less than 300.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Sean Carolan said the goats live in feral herds, but are essentially being cross-bred out of existence with modern, imported goats.

He said the breed is around 5,000 years old and arrived in Ireland in roughly 2,000 BC.

The fact that they are not on a protected list is "an anomaly", he said.

"Our native genetic resources, our native landrace breeds don't have legal protection like wildlife does," Mr Carolan said, adding that means they can be hunted.

"We need to legislate to protect native breeds and genetic resources generally."

Mr Carolan said trophy-hunting of the Old Irish Goat is "well documented".

He said the Old Goat Society "very much welcomes" a statement from the Department of Agriculture, as reported in the Business Post, that it is of the view that such an important genetic resource should be protected and conserved.

"It's very clear and unequivocal," Mr Carolan said. "The minister's office has been in contact with us and we'll be talking to them tomorrow."

He said the society's visitor centre in Mulranny will reopen for the season on 1 April and people are welcome to view Old Irish Goats from there.

A petition to have the Old Irish Goat protected has received more than 7,000 signatures so far, after reports in the Connaught Telegraph and Farmers Journal newspapers.

Last year, 25 Old Irish Goats were relocated from the hills of Mulranny to Howth Head, where they are being used to reduce gorse cover in an area that has been plagued by wildfires.

Gorse fires in Howth burned an area of approximately 65 acres over several weeks in 2021, despite the efforts to contain them by Dublin Fire Brigade and the Irish Air Corps.