Rupicapra pyrenaica 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Rupicapra pyrenaica
Species Authority: Bonaparte, 1845
Common Name(s):
English Pyrenean Chamois, Abruzzo Chamois, Apennine Chamois, Southern Chamois
French Chamois Des Abruzzes, Isard, ISARD
Spanish Gamuza De Los Abruzzos, Gamuza Meridional, GAMUZA MERIDIONAL, Rebeco De Los Abruzzos

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Herrero, J., Lovari, S. & Berducou, C.
Reviewer(s): Hilton-Taylor, C. & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is currently increasing in numbers and range. It is not believed to approach the thresholds for any of the criteria for the IUCN Red List. Consequently it is assessed as Least Concern. Subspecies R. p. pyrenaica and R. p. parva are also Least Concern. However, R. p. ornata is assessed here as Vulnerable (D1+2) as it has a very small population and restricted area of occupancy. It was previously assessed in 1996 as Endangered, but as a result of strict protection and a programme of captive breeding and reintroductions, its population has increased such that it no longer meets criterion D at this level. Ongoing conservation measures are required to ensure its future survival.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Rupicapra pyrenaica is endemic to south-west Europe, where it occurs as three subspecies: R. p. ornata, R. p. pyrenaïca and R. p. parva (Shackleton 1997, Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). The Apennine chamois R. p. ornata now survives only in three small populations in the Abruzzo, Majella, and Gran Sasso-Monti della Laga National Parks in Italy, although earlier in the Holocene it ranged from the Sibillini mountains (Marche Region, Italy) down to the Pollino massif (Calabria Region, Italy) (Masini 1985, Masini and Lovari 1988). The isard or Pyrenean chamois R. p. pyrenaica is found in the Pyrenean mountains, along France' s border with Spain (including Andorra: C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). The Cantabrian chamois R. p. parva occurs in the Cantabrian mountains (Spain). The altitudinal range of the species is 400-2,800 m (Palomo and Gisbert 2002).
Countries occurrence:
Andorra; France; Italy; Spain
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):400
Upper elevation limit (metres):2800
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Overall, the status of this species has greatly improved since 1990. The population and range of the Pyrenean subspecies pyrenaica increased markedly from 1989 to 2003, although there have subsequently been some declines. The 1989 estimate for the total number of R. p. pyrenaica was around 15,500 animals (Shackleton 1997), but by 2003 there were estimated to be at least 53,000 (Herrero et al. 2004). This is now (2006) likely to be an overestimate of the population, as many chamois populations have locally declined since 2004 following severe mortality caused by viral disease, and French hunting bags have reduced although hunting effort has remained steady (C. Novoa pers. comm. 2006). Densities of R. p. pyrenaica tend to be lower outside protected areas. Not all subpopulations of subspecies parva have been censused, but the population was recently estimated at c.15,000 (Palomo and Gisbert 2002).

However, the Italian subspecies ornata remains very rare. Numbers of ornata have probably been low for the last few centuries, only starting to increase in the 1920s as a result of increased protection. Numbers plummeted again to just several tens of individuals in a single population in the Abruzzo National Park during World War II (Lovari 1989). As a result of conservation action, including re-introductions and the establishment of two new populations, numbers have increased and the population is currently estimated at about 1,100 individuals in three subpopulations (Mari and Lovari 2006, S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006), up from a total of c.400 individuals in the late 1980s (Lovari 1989). Not all of these are mature individuals.
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:50000
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species is found in alpine meadows, rocky areas, and the forested valleys and lower slopes in mountainous regions. This species generally stays above 1,800 meters in alpine meadows during the warmer months of the year (Nowak, 1983). These animals make altitudinal migrations from the forests in the valleys to the more open alpine meadows (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). In late fall and winter they have been known to enter lands below 1,100 meters, while usually staying on steep slopes, and rarely if ever occur in forested areas (Nowak, 1983). In recent years some populations have started to permanently inhabit forest (Mitchell-Jones et al. 1999; Herrero pers. comm. 2006).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Hunting of this species is generally well managed and sustainable.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The threats to the species vary in different parts of its range. In Italy, subspecies ornata might be vulnerable to many factors because the total number is small, there are only three subpopulations, and genetic variability is very low (Shackleton 1997, S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006). Space and food competition with livestock, especially domestic caprins, seem to be the main limiting factors for ornata . Some poaching occurs, but does not seem to impair the viability of the chamois population in Abruzzo National Park. There are currently no problems with disease for the Italian subspecies (J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006). However, in France and Spain disease is currently the most important threat. Pestivirus appeared in the Pyrenean subspecies in c. 2004, and sarcoptic mange outbreaks periodically cause local declines in the Cantabrian subspecies (J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006). In Spain and the Pyrenees, chamois coexist with domestic livestock, but there do not appear to be problems with competition; indeed in the Pyrenees the presence of domestic livestock is considered to benefit the chamois, via maintenance of young and good quality forage, which increases the carrying capacity (J. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). Most Pyrenean and Cantabrian populations are hunted (with the exception of within National Parks). Chamois is a major game species in Spain and is important socially and economically as a source of rural livelihoods. Hunting is carefully managed and revenue from hunting is returned to the local community. In Spain, regional governments set quotas, and hunting is not at an unsustainable level (J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006). In France, hunting is essentially a recreational and non-profit leisure activity, and average annual quotas are under 10% of censused populations. This is sustainable, with only a few local exceptions (C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention and Annex V of the EU Habitats and Species Directive (as part of R. rupicapra sensu lato).

In Spain, the species occurs in three national parks, at least 10 natural parks, and a number of other reserves (J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006). Spanish protected areas include Montana de Covadogna and Ordesa National Parks; Reres Natural Park; Alta Pallars-Aran, Benasque, Cadi, Cerdana, Fresser y Setcasas, Los Circos, Los Valles, Vinamala, Mampodre, Picos de Europa, Saja, Somiedo and Sueve Hunting Reserves. Spanish hunting reserves are large hunting management units with strictly controlled culling (C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). In France, it occurs in a number of protected areas (Pyrenees-Occidentales National Park, Roc-Blanc, Moudang and Mont-Vallier Mountain Reserves, Orlu Nature Reserve and other small reserves where hunting is banned: C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). A study of population dynamics is ongoing in France, as well as a detailed survey of the population size and distribution (C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). In France, there is a hunting plan that is designed to correct geographic imbalances in numbers and distribution, but might be difficult to achieve. A major restoration effort was carried out in the French Pyrenees between 1981 and 2000, involving the translocation of more than 600 individuals (Herrero et al. 2004, C. Novoa and C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). In Andorra there are a few small reserves with hunting quotas (C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006).

In Italy, the autochthonous population of subspecies ornata inhabits Abruzzo National Park, and all recent and planned re-introductions and introductions are into protected areas. A group of 22 chamois was released in the Majella massif between 1991 and 1994, and more recently, 26 were re-introduced into the Gran Sasso massif in cooperation with local villagers. A captive breeding population (numbering 18 individuals in 2006: S. Lovari in litt. 2006) is kept in four large enclosures in as many national parks. No studbook has been kept, which is a major shortcoming in the captive breeding program (Shackleton 1997). The subspecies ornata is strictly protected under national and international legislation - it is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, Annex II* and Annex IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive, Appendix I of CITES, and as a “specially protected species” under Italian hunting law. A slowly increasing number of alpine meadows in the species’ range have been forbidden to livestock grazing to reduce competition. This action may generate cautious optimism about the species’ future. Proposed conservation measures include the following: 1) Consider benign introductions for a number of areas in the central and southern Apennines, once their suitability has been adequately assessed. Some national parks (e.g. Pollino, Gran Sasso-Laga, Majella and Sibillini) could in the future also host populations of the Apennine chamois. 2) When selecting individuals for transplants and captive breeding, consider Nascetti et al.'s (1985) finding of an alarming lack of genetic variability in the surviving nucleus of the Abruzzo National Park. This was most likely a result of living at low density for a long time and of population bottlenecks occurring at World Wars I and II. 3) Keep detailed breeding records, genetic profiles, and develop a studbook, for each of the captive breeding populations. 4) Avoid releasing Alpine chamois into areas of potential (re)introduction of Apennine chamois, as if such an action was carried out, it would prevent the subsequent release of the latter species (Shackleton 1997).

Future priorities for the species as a whole include extending monitoring to all populations, and to increasing knowledge of demography and the impact of hunting. It is particularly important for monitoring and research to take place outside National Parks, where chamois are hunted.

Classifications [top]

0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
3. Shrubland -> 3.4. Shrubland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.2. Benign introduction
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:Yes
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.1. Unspecified species
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.2. Problematic native species/diseases -> 8.2.1. Unspecified species
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Handicrafts, jewellery, etc.
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Sport hunting/specimen collecting
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Baillie, J. and Groombridge, B. (comps and eds). 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Garcia Gonzalez, R. and Cuartas, P. 1996. Trophic utilization of a montane/subalpine forest by chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica) in the central Pyrenees. Forest Ecology and Management 88: 15-23.

Garin, I. and Herrero, J. 1997. Distribution, abundance and demographic parameters of the Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica) in Navarre, Western Pyrenees. Mammalia 61: 53-63.

Herrero, J., Escudero, E., Fernández de Luco, D. and García-González, R. 2004. El sarrio pirenaico Rupicapra p. pyrenaica: biología, patología y gestión. Actas de las Primeras Jornadas sobre el Sarrio Pirenaico. P. ublicaciones del Consejo de Protección de la Naturaleza de Aragón y de la Fundación para el Estudio y Defensa de la Naturaleza y la Caza. Serie Investigación.

Herrero, J., Garin, I. and Garcia Serrano, A. 1996. Habitat use in a Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica forest population. Forest Ecology and Management 88: 25-29.

IUCN. 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Loison, A., Appolinaire, J., Jullien, J.-M. and Dubray, D. 2006. How reliable are total counts to detect trends in population size of chamois Rupicapra rupicapra and R. pyrenaica? Wildlife Biology 12: 77-88.

Lorenzini, R. 2005. A panel of polymorphic microsatellites in the threatened Apennine chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata). Molecular Ecology Notes 5: 372-374.

Lovari, S. 1989. L’evoluzione del camoscio appenninico. Le Scienze 247: 46-55.

Mari, F. and Lovari, S. 2006. The release of Apennine chamois in central Italy: 20 years later. Re-introduction News 25: 21-22.

Masini, F. 1985. Würmian and Holocene chamois of Italy. In: S. Lovari (ed.), The Biology and Management of Mountain Ungulates, pp. 31-34. Croom-Helm, London, UK.

Masini, F. and Lovari, S. 1988. Systematics, phylogenetic relationships and dispersal of the chamois, Rupicapra spp. Quaternary Research 30: 339-349.

Mitchell-Jones, A.J., Amori, G., Bogdanowicz, W., Kryštufek, B., Reijnders, P.J.H., Spitzenberger, F., Stubbe, M., Thissen, J.B.M., Vohralik, V. and Zima, J. 1999. The Atlas of European Mammals. Academic Press, London, UK.

Nascetti, G., Lovari, S., Lanfranchi, P., Berducou, C., Mattiucci, S., Rossi, L. and Bullini, L. 1985. Revision of Rupicapra genus. 3. Electrophoretic studies demonstrating species distinction of chamois populations of the Alps from those of the Apennines and Pyrenees. In: S. Lovari (ed.), The Biology and Management of Mountain Ungulates, pp. 56-62. Croom-Helm, London, UK.

Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA and London, UK.

Palomo, L.J. and Gisbert, J. 2002. Atlas de los mamíferos terrestres de España. Dirección General de Conservación de la Naturaleza. SECEM-SECEMU, Madrid, Spain.

Pedrotti, L. and Lovari, S. 1999. Rupicapra pyrenaica. In: A. J. Mitchell-Jones, G. Amori, W. Bogdanowicz, B. Kryštufek, P.J.H. Reijnders, F. Spitzenberger, M. Stubbe, J.B.M. Thissen, V. Vohralík, and J. Zima (eds), The Atlas of European Mammals, Academic Press, London, UK.

Shackleton, D.M. 1997. Wild Sheep and Goats and Their Relatives: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Caprinae. IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Citation: Herrero, J., Lovari, S. & Berducou, C. 2008. Rupicapra pyrenaica. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T19771A9012711. . Downloaded on 24 May 2017.
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