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Capra ibex

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA BOVIDAE

Scientific Name: Capra ibex
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name(s):
English Alpine Ibex, Ibex
French Bouquetin Des Alpes, BOUQUETIN DES ALPES
Spanish Íbice De Los Alpes, ÍBICE DE LOS ALPES

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Aulagnier, S., Kranz, A., Lovari, S., Jdeidi, T., Masseti, M., Nader, I., de Smet, K. & Cuzin, F.
Reviewer(s): Hilton-Taylor, C. & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is not declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category. The species needs conservation action to prevent future decline.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Alpine ibex is endemic to Europe, where its native range is the Alps of France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and northern Italy (Shackleton 1997; Grubb, 2005). It has been introduced to Slovenia and Bulgaria (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). The ibex was driven very close to extinction in the early 19th century, and with the exception of the population in the Gran Paradiso National Park (Italy), all current populations originate from re-introductions or introductions. Although the range of the ibex has increased over the last century as a result of translocations and natural colonisation, its distribution is still rather patchy in the Alps. It occurs from 500 to 3,000 m (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999).

In Austria, all current populations originate from re-introductions, although not always into former or even suitable habitat. The first colony was re-established in 1924 in the Bluhnbach valley (Hagen mountains), and the second in 1936, farther east in Wildalpen, so that by 1988, ca. 740 ibex had been released (Bauer, 1991). By the 1990s, the species is now found in the Bhihnbach valley (Hagen mountains), in the Northern Limestone alps in Wildalpen, and in the Pitz and Kauner valleys of Tyrol, and in the Styria (Hochlantsch massif). In France, it is found mainly in the eastern part of the Alps. Four ibex populations had been re-established in Germany by the 1990s. The first introduction was made at Koenigsee (Berchtesgaden) in 1936 with 24 animals. The founding animals came from the Aosta valley (Italy), from Peter and Paul, and from the Berlin and Munich Zoological Gardens. The animals dispersed after a few years to the Austrian Bluebachtal. In 1951, the population was reduced considerably after an outbreak of sarcoptic mange, but since then numbers have increased slowly. The population straddles the German-Austrian border, wintering in Austria and summering in the Bavarian Alps in Germany. A second population was established at Jachenau, partly the result of immigration of one male from the Austrian colony at Baechental, supplemented by four animals from Swiss founder populations in 1967. After the addition of several more ibex, this population increased to about 100 animals by the 1990s; however, its range is very restricted and there is little potential for expansion. A small colony in Oberaudorf was the result of a re-introduction in 1963 which failed to disperse. It is now restricted to an area of about 100 ha, and foresters consider it a problem because of range over-use. Another small, restricted population became established through natural dispersal from Austria, but its size is unknown. Ibex were introduced into the Rila mountains of Bulgaria (Atlas of the Mammals of Bulgaria) in the mid-1980s. In Italy, re-introductions, combined with some spontaneous migration from adjoining countries (Peracino and Bassano, 1986; Tosi et al., 1986a), have increased areas with ibex, but its distribution is still rather discontinuous in the Alps.
Countries:
Native:
Italy
Reintroduced:
Austria; France (France (mainland)); Germany; Switzerland
Introduced:
Bulgaria; Slovenia
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: After centuries of decline caused primarily by intensive hunting, at the beginning of the 19th century at most a few hundred Alpine ibex survived in the Gran Paradiso massif (Valle d’Aosta region, Italy). Current ibex populations in the Alps are generally restricted to mountain areas above the tree line and are the result of both translocations from the original core of c.100 individuals and natural colonisation (Dupré et al. 2001). These efforts, together with spontaneous migration from adjoining countries, have increased the population and the number of areas inhabited by ibex, although the distribution is still discontinuous (Stüwe and Nievergelt 1991, S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006). In the 1990s it was estimated that c.30,000 ibex lived in the Alps (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). Populations grew steadily from the 1960s to the 1990s, showing a mean annual growth rate between 3% and 6% (Dupré et al. 2001). About 15,000 ibex were estimated in Switzerland, 9,700 in Italy, 3,200 in Austria, 3,300 in France, 250 in Slovenia and, and 220 in Germany (Shackleton 1997).
Population Trend: Increasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Alpine ibex typically inhabit open, rocky habitats at high altitude, above the tree line. Steep, south-facing slops with rugged topography and grassy vegetation are preferred. Below the tree line, at subalpine levels, ibex are only found in open, sunny woodland interspersed with rocky outcrops (Nievergelt and Zingg 1986, Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). Ibex feed on alpine grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). This species is diurnal, but most active during the early morning and late afternoon. Living in montane pastures, they eat grasses and some woody plants. They migrate seasonally to different altitudes, spending the harsher winter months at medium elevations. The animals occur in maternal herds of 10-20 members, while males roam solitarily or in bachelor groups. Females gestate for about 170 days, and usually carry one kid per pregnancy. Females are sexually mature by 18 months, and males are mature at 2 years. The species lifespan is typically 10-14 years.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is hunted for sport and food. Legal hunting is well-managed and is not considered to be a threat to the species.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although the species is not considered threatened at present, there is concern regarding genetic diversity, the founder effect and minimum viable populations (Shackleton 1997, Maudet et al. 2002). Genetic variability in ibex populations is among the lowest reported from microsatellites in mammal species, and the Alpi Marittime–Mercantour population in particular has suffered from a severe genetic bottleneck associated with its reintroduction (Maudet et al. 2002). The ibex's distribution remains fragmented and many colonies are small and thus vulnerable to epizootics and stochastic events as well as inbreeding depression. Colonies with >60 individuals are believed to be viable as long as diseases (most importantly mange) do not affect them (Shackleton 1997, EMA Workshop 2006). Hybridization can be a threat where populations are small and sympatric with high densities of domestic goats, as is the case in Italy (Randi et al. 1990, Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). High densities of domestic goats and sheep may also have a negative impact on the ibex through parasite and disease transmission and resource competition (Shackleton 1997, J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006). Appropriate habitat for the species may be decreasing, as the abandonment of traditional agriculture means that high-altitude alpine meadows are reverting to forest through natural succession (EMA Workshop 2006). Human disturbance as a result of increased tourism and recreation is suspected to be a general threat to mountain ungulates (Shackleton 1997). Alpine ibex are legally hunted in some areas (e.g. Bulgaria, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia), although hunting is completely prohibited in several range states (Shackleton 1997). Legal hunting is not considered a threat if it is properly planned and regulated, but poaching is a potential threat (Dupré et al. 2001).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Alpine ibex is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention and Annex V of the EU Habitats and Species Directive, and is protected under national legislation in most range states. It occurs in a number of protected areas (e.g. Hohe Tauern and Kalkhochalpen National Parks, Austria; Vanoise, Ecrins, and Mercantour National Parks, France; Gran Paradiso and Stelvio National Parks and Maritime Alps Natural Park, Italy), and it has been the subject of intensive conservation management in the form of reintroductions and introductions (Shackleton 1997). Reintroductions began at the end of the 19th century in the Swiss Alps, while in Italy they have been significant only since the 1970s (Dupré et al. 2001).

According to Shackleton (1997) and Dupré et al. (2001), the main proposal for ibex conservation is to continue restocking populations in appropriate habitats. Reintroductions should also be carefully planned, e.g. by (1) Using environmental evaluation models for selecting areas for reintroducing ibex, in conjunction with (2) a conservation strategy that aims to make the separate colonies part of a single metapopulation; (3) Giving priority to protected areas, or to other areas capable of guaranteeing efficient surveillance against poaching and disturbance (although this does not mean that controlled hunting areas should be a priori excluded); (4) Selecting founder individuals for new colonies according to specific criteria; (5) Limiting domestic sheep and goat grazing in reintroduction areas to decrease the possibility of parasite and disease transmission, resource competition, and hybridization; and (6) Screeing reintroduction sites for suitability in relation to health and disease transmission.

Other conservation recommendations include ensuring that any harvest is sustainable (through research, legislation, and international cooperation), reducing poaching (through legislation, enforcement, education and communication), reducing the impacts of human disturbance (e.g. by providing refugia in areas with intense tourism), and monitoring all populations.

Citation: Aulagnier, S., Kranz, A., Lovari, S., Jdeidi, T., Masseti, M., Nader, I., de Smet, K. & Cuzin, F. 2008. Capra ibex. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 02 September 2014.
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