Rupicapra rupicapra 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Rupicapra rupicapra (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Northern Chamois, Alpine Chamois, Balkan Chamois, Chamois
Spanish Gamuza, Gamuza Septentrional

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Aulagnier, S., Giannatos, G. & Herrero, J.
Reviewer(s): Hilton-Taylor, C. & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
The northern chamois is widespread and has a large population of over 440,000 individuals. Although it is declining in some parts of its European and global range, the bulk of the population is found in the Alps and is relatively secure. Consequently it is assessed as Least Concern. However, several chamois subspecies qualify as globally threatened, and require urgent conservation action.

The following subspecies assessments are from the European Mammal assessment:

R. r. tatrica - Listed as Critically Endangered (CR) C2a(ii) - has a very small population of less than 200 individuals and there is a projected continuing decline due to the problem of potential interbreeding. [Listed in 2000 as CR C2b]

R. r. cartusiana - Listed as Vulnerable (VU) D1. Is confined to a single mountain, the population is probably <1,000 mature individuals and there is no continuing decline. If the population is found to be larger than this, the status might have to be changed to Near Threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The northern chamois is native to mountainous parts of central and southern Europe and Asia Minor, where it occurs as seven subspecies: balcanica, carpatica, cartusiana, rupicapra, tatrica, asiatica and caucasica(Shackleton 1997, Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). It occurs from 500 m to 3,100 m asl in the Alps (Spitzenberger 2002). It has been introduced to Argentina and New Zealand (not mapped).

The subspecies asiatica occurs widely in eastern and northeastern Turkey.

The subspecies balcanica inhabits most of the mountain regions of Albania, as well as Bulgaria's four main massifs. In Greece, it is currently restricted to 11 mountains, and comprising at least six distinct and widely scattered population groups from Mount Rodopi in the northeast and the Epirus mountains in the northwest, to Mount Giona in central Greece (Shackleton 1997).

The subspecies carpatica occurs in many populations throughout the Transylvania alps and the Carpathian mountains. There have been a number of successful re-introductions (Shackleton 1997).

The subspecies cartusiana is endemic to France, where it is restricted to a 350 km2 area of the Chartreuse limestone massif, centred around Grenoble, at the western edge of the French Alps.

The subspecies caucasica is restricted to the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It occurs on both sides of the Greater Caucasus from just east of Pshada River near Gelendjik, southeast for about 900 km to Mount Babadag in Azerbaijan (Alekperov et al., 1976; Durov, 1977). Although still relatively continuously distributed, it becomes increasingly less numerous east of North Ossetia, particularly in Daghestan, and more occur on the southern slopes in Azerbaijan than on northern ones. However, its range in the Greater Caucasus is beginning to fragment all over. In the Caucasus Minor, populations are scattered and isolated, and are confined mainly to the Meskhet and Trialeti ridges in Georgia, which are the wetter parts of the Caucasus Minor.

The subspecies rupicapra is found in the Alps of Austria, Germany, and eastern France.

The subspecies tatrica occurs in the Tatra mountains of Poland and Slovakia. In Slovakia, it has also been introduced to the Low Tatras (Shackleton 1997).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Italy; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Montenegro; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Switzerland; Turkey
Argentina; Czech Republic; New Zealand
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):500
Upper elevation limit (metres):3100
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The northern chamois is widespread and generally increasing. Excluding the Caucasus population, there are an estimated 440,000 individuals in Europe, and in some protected areas densities may exceed 20 individuals per hectare (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999, S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006). However, with the exception of the Alpine subspecies R. r. rupicapra, many subspecies are rare and/or declining:

R. r. asiatica: There is very little data on the status of this subspecies, but it is believed to have undergone substantial declines.

R. r. balcanica: The total population numbers some thousands of individuals. Numbers are believed to be declining in all subpopulations (Shackleton 1997).

R. r. carpatica: In 1990, the total population was estimated to be around 9,000 animals (Shackleton 1997). I. Coroui (pers. comm. 2006) confirmed that the population of this subspecies in Romania is increasing.

R. r. cartusiana: The population was estimated at 300 to 400 individuals in the 1970s, and 150 individuals in 1986-1987, but has since increased to c. 2,000 individuals (S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006).

R. r. caucasica: There is very little data on the status of this subspecies, but it is declining and has virtually disappeared outside protected areas. The total population was estimated in the early 1990s to be c. 15,000 chamois, with about half in the western half of the Greater Caucasus and only ca. 500 in the Caucasus Minor. Of total chamois, an estimated 5,000 occur in Georgia. Numbers of this chamois have decreased drastically over the last 20 years throughout their range, and are still declining. Over the last two to three years, the decline has accelerated and numbers are believed to have been reduced by as much as 50% (P. Weinberg, unpubl. data).

R. r. rupicapra: This subspecies comprises the bulk of the global northern chamois population, and is widespread and abundant in the Alps. The number of individuals culled per year in the Swiss Alps and Jura mountains has increased steadily from c.4,000 individuals in 1950 to c.17,000 individuals in 2000 (Loison et al. 2003).

R. r. tatrica: The population was estimated at 220 in 1999 (Jurdíková 2000), and had dropped below 200 by 2002 (S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006). Numbers have been declining steadily since the 1960s (Jurdíková 2000).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:440000
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Alpine chamois inhabit steep, rocky areas in the mountains, utilizing a variety of habitats including alpine meadows, open rocky areas, mixed broadleaf woodland, and coniferous woodland (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). This species occupies rocky areas and alpine meadows, and feeds on grasses, herbs, leaves of trees, buds, shoots, and fungi (Sägesser and Krapp 1986). Females gestate for 170 days, and usually have 1 offspring per pregnancy. Females are sexually mature at 2.5 years, while males mature 1-1.5 years later. They live 14-22 years. Females and young occur in flocks of 5-30 animals, while adult males remain solitary.
Generation Length (years):8-13

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is widely hunted through its range. In the Alps, hunting is generally managed sustainably, but elsewhere it is a threat to the species.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Poaching and over-hunting may be a problem for the species in parts of its range, especially where it occurs outside protected areas and private hunting reserves (Shackleton 1997, Jurdíková 2000). Many of the less numerous subspecies (e.g. R. r. balcanica, R. r. cartusiana, and R. r. tatrica) are threatened by the deliberate introduction of subspecies from other geographic areas (especially R. r. rupicapra), leading to hybridisation and genetic swamping (Shackleton 1997). Human disturbance, particularly as a result of increased tourism and leisure activities in mountain areas, may also be a problem (Shackleton 1997, Jurdíková 2000). Competition with domestic livestock and introduced species such as the mouflon Ovis aries is a threat to the more vulnerable subspecies, although it is not considered to be a major problem for R. r. rupicapra. R. r. rupicapra does, however, suffer periodic outbreaks of sarcoptic mange, causing local population declines (Shackleton 1997). In 2006 a new disease, pestivirus, was first recorded in this subspecies (J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006). In general, habitat loss is not a major threat to the species, as much of its range falls within protected areas. However, habitat loss may be a problem in some areas (e.g. for subspecies balcanica in Albania) (Shackleton 1997). Because its population is very small indeed, subspecies cartusiana is susceptible to extinction as a result of stochastic demographic or environmental events (Shackleton 1997, S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006).

Rupicapra rupicapra asiatica
The main threats are poaching and competition with livestock, coupled with natural predation (Shackleton 1997).

Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica
In Albania, habitat loss is a major threat in some regions due to land demands from expanding human populations. There appears to be no competition from domestic livestock. Poaching does occur but the extent is not known. In Bulgaria, the major threat is hybridization with Alpine chamois. In Rhodope this is almost complete, and is also a potential danger at Rila. The Balkan population which has been isolated for about 100 years is still small and vulnerable, and poaching has not yet been eliminated. The majority of the populations in Rila and Pirin are not directly threatened, but neighbouring populations are potentially threatened by hybridization. Outside the protected areas, poaching remains a problem. In Greece, poaching facilitated by road developments, and predation by feral dogs are the main threats to chamois survival (Hatzirvassanis, 1991). Another serious threat is domestic livestock grazing which creates ecological competition and habitat loss, and all three threats occur both within and outside national parks (Hatzirvassanis, 1991; Tsunis, 1988). Forestry and tourist developments are the main causes of increased road construction, which in turn create access for poachers. In some areas, recreation activities may significantly disturb chamois (Adamakopoulos, in prep.).

Rupicapra rupicapra carpatica
Grazing by domestic sheep in summer tends to disturb chamois causing them to be more dispersed. In some areas, high densities of these domestic animals create intense grazing pressure.

Rupicapra rupicapra cartusiana
Many factors threaten this subspecies, and the most important include: food and space competition with domestic livestock, red deer and introduced mouflon; hybridization with introduced Alpine chamois; over-harvesting and poaching; forestry; summer tourism and winter cross-country skiers.

Rupicapra rupicapra caucasica
Until recently, this chamois was common in the western half of the Greater Caucasus but very rare in Daghestan where they are often displaced by wild goats (Capra aegagrus). The reason for the decline in numbers in some populations, even in protected areas, is unknown, although outside of these areas, poaching related to political unrest is a major threat. In some areas, competition with domestic livestock is a problem, and competition with tur, red deer (Cervus elaphus), and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) is also possible.

Rupicapra rupicapra rupicapra
Sarcoptic mange is a problem in Austria and will continue to be so unless measures are taken to prevent its spread. There are also concerns about the relative over-harvesting of older males (e.g. Zeiler et al., 1990, 1992). Although not threatened overall in Germany, the small sub-alpine populations are vulnerable to poaching and stochastic events, and possibly to inbreeding depression. Disturbance acts as a major threat to small populations and has caused declines in some. Unless steps are taken to reverse this threat, declines will continue and most small populations are on the verge of extinction. Even large populations face threats. Numbers in the Bavarian Alps are currently decreasing due to sharply increased harvest rates. Tourist development has also affected many subpopulations negatively (e.g., disturbance, habitat isolation). In Italy, competition with introduced mouflon may cause problems for Alpine chamois in some parts of its range.

Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica
Major threats include poaching, because access to firearms is now relatively easy, and disturbance and habitat loss caused by tourists. An estimated three million people visited Tatra National Park in 1990. In Slovakia, interbreeding with animals from introduced populations of Alpine chamois threaten one of the two remaining populations of R. r. tatrica. Both populations are relatively small and their effective population sizes may make the maintenance of genetic diversity and adaptability limited over the long-term.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention. The subspecies balcanica is listed on Annexes II and IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive, and subspecies tatrica is listed on Annexes II* and IV. Chamois occur in many protected areas. The subspecies cartusiana has been subject to intensive conservation management, including r-eintroductions. Detailed conservation recommendations for the species were given in Shackleton (1997). In general, conservation recommendations that apply to all subspecies include ensuring that any harvest is sustainable (through research, legislation, and international cooperation), reducing poaching (through legislation, enforcement, education and awareness-raising, and provision of alternative livelihoods where necessary), reducing the impacts of human disturbance (by providing refugia in areas with intense tourism), and protecting the genetic integrity of populations (by avoiding translocations of 'foreign' subspecies that could hybridise with the local population) (Shackleton 1997). Monitoring of all subspecies is required, especially those that are rare and/or declining.

To protect the High Tatras subspecies, Jurdíková (2000) recommends reducing illegal hunting (by closing and guarding parts of the western Tatra mountains). R. r. rupicapra introduced into Slovakia (e.g. the Lower Tatras National Park) should be removed as they pose a threat to the wild population of R. r. tatrica (Shackleton 1997).

Citation: Aulagnier, S., Giannatos, G. & Herrero, J. 2008. Rupicapra rupicapra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T39255A10179647. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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