Capra sibirica


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Capra sibirica
Species Authority: (Pallas, 1776)
Common Name/s:
English Siberian Ibex, Himalayan Ibex, Asiatic Ibex
Capra sibrica (Pallas, 1776) [orth. error]
Taxonomic Notes: It is still not certain that Capra sibirica is specifically distinct from other ibex, and some authors use the name Capra [ibex] sibirica (Shackleton 1997), although Wilson and Reeder (1993) regarded this as a separate species, following Geptner et al. (1961).

Fedosenko and Blank (2001) recognize four subspecies (C. s. hagenbecki in Mongolia’s Gobi, C. s. sibirica, in the Altai Mountains, C. s. alaiana, in the Tian Shan range, and C. s. sakeen, in the Pamirs, Hindu Kush, and Karakorum) based on horn and color characteristics. Wang (1998) and Smith and Xie (2008) recognize another subspecies, C. s. dementievi, in the Kunlun Mountains near their junction with the Karakarum and Pamirs. Many authorities believe these subspecies are synonymous; they are not recognized by Wilson and Reeder (2005) and taxonomy is not yet resolved (Mallon et al. 1997, Shackleton 1997).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Reading, R. & Shank, C.
Reviewer/s: Harris, R. & Festa-Bianchet, M. (Caprinae Red List Authority)
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because, although some populations are likely to be in decline, overall this is probably much less than the rate required to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species inhabits the mountain ranges of central and northeastern Afghanistan, China (northwestern tip of Gansu, west Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, possibly Tibet on its border with Xinjiang, Schaller 1998), north India (Himalayas of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh), eastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia (Altai, Gobi-Altai, Khangai, and Sayan Mountains, as well as isolated mountains and rocky outcrops in the southeast), northeastern Uzbekistan (west Tian Shan), northern Pakistan, Russia (southern Siberia, southern Tuva, and the Altai Mountains), and Tajikistan (Shackleton 1997; Grubb, 2005). In Afghanistan, ibex were historically found in pockets of steep habitat throughout the Afghan Hindu Kush and its outlying ranges (e.g., Spinghar, Kohe Baba, Feroz Koh, Nuristan). It is currently found in suitable habitat throughout the Afghan Pamir and along the Panj River of north-eastern Badakhshan.

In China, Siberian ibex is found primarily in the mountains surrounding Xinjiang, but also in those of extreme northern Gansu, and Inner Mongolia. Populations are relatively widespread in western Xinjiang (Abudoukadi’er 2003) in the mountains around the Dzungarian basin including the mountains along the border with Kazakhstan from south of the Irtysh River, through the Kok Shaal Tau mountains along the border with Kyrgyzstan and into the Pamir along the border with Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also throughout the Tian Shan ranges. Populations occur along the Sino-Mongolia border in the Baytik mountains (Xinjiang), in the Mazongshan area of northern Gansu, and as far east as the Daqinshan of central Inner Mongolia (Wang 1998). Slightly separated from these are populations in the Altai mountains in northern Xinjiang, along China’s borders with Mongolia, and Russia.

The Asiatic ibex has a widespread distribution in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and southern Siberia, where it occupies precipitous habitats in a range of environments from hot deserts, low mountains and foothills, to high mountain ridges. It is found throughout the Pamir, Tian Shan, Dzungarian Alatau, Altai, and Tuva Mountains, as well as the western and eastern Sayan.

In Mongolia, Siberian ibex are patchily distributed in rugged terrain throughout the western half of the country, and in central and south-central Mongolia to the trans-Siberian railway line (Ulaanbaatar to Choir, and to Sainshand) (Dulamtseren 1970, 1977, Mallon et al. 1997, Clark et al. 2006). More specifically, ibex inhabit the Altai, Hangai, and Gobi Altai Mountain Ranges (Bannikov 1954, Dulamtseren 1970, Sokolov and Orlov 1980, Mallon 1985, Schaller 1994, Mallon et al. 1997, Fedosenko and Blank 2001, Clark et al. 2006). They also occur in the Sayan Mountains near the Russian border west of Lake Hovsgol and in scattered populations in the small mountains in the Transaltai Gobi and in canyons, rocky outcrops, and other rugged terrain throughout the Gobi Desert (Bannikov 1954; Dash et al. 1977, Dulamtseren 1977, Reading et al. 1995, 1999a, 1999b, Mallon et al. 1997, Fedosenko and Blank 2001, Clark et al. 2006). A small introduced population survives in the Bogd Uul Mountains just outside of Ulaanbaatar (Mallon et al. 1997, Clark et al. 2006). The largest number of ibex occurs in the Altai and western Hangai Mountains. Populations continue to become increasing fragmented, especially in central and southeastern Mongolia (Schaller 1994, Clark et al. 2006). A long term research project on ibex ecology is being conducted in northern Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in northern Dornogobi Aimag (Reading et al. 2006a).

In India, the Asiatic ibex occurs in the Karakoram, Trans-Himalayan and Himalayan regions of Jammu and Kashmir, and in the Tran Himalayan and Himalayan regions of Himachal Pradesh, as far east as the Sutlej river (Fox, 1987; Fox et al., 1992; Gaston et al., 1981; Pandey, 1993). The species occurs in the western half of Ladakh, in the Shyok valley of northern Ladakh, along the Ladakh range to 45 km southeast of Leh, and along both sides of the main Himalayan range eastward to Shingo La pass (Fox et al., 1991a, 1992; Mallon, 1991). It is present along the southern side of the Himalaya in Jammu and Kashmir from the Zoji La pass eastwards to Himachal Pradesh, where it occurs throughout much of Lahul and Spiti, in the upper Beas and Parbati catchments, and east to the Sutlej river (Fox et al., 1992; Pandey, 1993; Bhatnagar 2003). According to Shackleton (1997), the Asiatic ibex is probably the most abundant Caprinae in Pakistan (Schaller, 1977). It is restricted to the relatively dry mountains of the inner Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush, between about 3,200 to greater than 5,000 m. It inhabits most of the higher mountain ranges of the Gilgit, Diamir and Baltistan Districts, and the northern part of the Chitral District. In Dir, Swat, Kohistan and Mansehra Districts, as well as in the northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, it exists in the inner mountain range and inhabits the southern slopes of the main Himalayan chain (Roberts, 1977, Schaller, 1977, Qayyum, 1985). Outside this distribution area there is an unconfirmed report of a totally isolated population in the Safed Koh Mountains (Districts Kurram and Khyber of NWFP). If animals still exist there, it would represent the southernmost limit of the species’ global distribution (Roberts, 1977).
Afghanistan; China (Gansu, Xinjiang); India (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu-Kashmir); Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Pakistan; Russian Federation; Tajikistan; Uzbekistan
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are no rigorously derived population estimates for ibex in any range state.

In Afghanistan, the Siberian ibex was considered abundant throughout its range prior to the late 1970s and a series of wars. Shank et al. (1977) estimated that around 5,000 animals used the Ajar Valley Reserve seasonally during the 1970s; this population is likely much smaller now (C. Shank pers. comm., 2007). More than 4,000 were believed to inhabit the Pamir alone. Their present status in the Pamir is unknown, but they are known to persist in reasonably large numbers throughout the ranges of the Wakhan Corridor.

There is no overall population estimate in China. In recent years, the population in the Tian Shan has been guessed at 40,000-50,000 individuals (Wang 1998). Densities in other areas are relatively low. Rough guesses of ibex numbers in the Bei Mountains (northern Gansu) are between 3,000 and 4,000 individuals. The species has almost disappeared in the Daqin mountains range.

In India, population estimates include a minimum of 6,000 in Ladakh (Fox et al., 1991a) and perhaps another 4,000 on the south side of the main Himalaya in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, and in the Pir Panjal range of Himachal Pradesh (Fox et al., 1992). Counts of ibex in protected areas include 330 in the Kanji-Boodkharbu, 225 in Lungnag, 250 in Rangdum, and 174 in Rizong Wildlife Sanctuaries (Jammu and Kashmir) (Fox et al., 1991a), and 174 in the Pin Valley National Park (Himachal Pradesh) where Pandey (1993) estimated a density of 2.3 ibex/km² in 1989. More recent counts in India are not available.

As reported by Shackleton (1997), the total number of ibex in the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia (as well as in adjacent Russia) was estimated at between 100,000 to 110,000 animals. Most of these occurred in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (ca. 70,000) and Kazakhstan (ca. 17,000) with far fewer (8,000 to 9,000) in southern Siberia (3,000 to 3,500 in the Altai, 2,500 in Tannu Ola mountains of Tuva, 1,500 in Western Sayan and 2,000 to 2,500 in Eastern Sayan) and Uzbekistan (2,400). Numbers for the Pamir are unknown, but the species was considered to be common, especially in the western part. Ibex number in the Tian Shan of Kazakhstan may have declined some areas (Green and Mahon, 1995).

The Mongolian Red Data Book 1987 (Shagdarsuren et al. 1987), stated that 1,000 individuals inhabited western Khövsgöl alone, and a total of 80,000 animals occurred in Mongolia in the mid-1980s (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Mallon et al. (1997) stated that ibex numbers declined since that peak estimate of 80,000 due to exploitation, habitat degradation and competition for resources (Schaller 1994, 1995, 1998). Despite Mallon et al.’s (1997) assertions, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences again estimated that 80,000 inhabited Mongolia in 2002. However, the MAS 2002 estimate was likely biased, as researchers 1) surveyed very few areas; 2) selected survey locations with the highest reported ibex densities based on information from local people; and 3) extrapolated their data to regions for which they had little to no data for the existence of ibex (B. Lhagvasuren pers. comm. 2002). Still, relatively large numbers of ibex likely persist in Mongolia. In the Khohk Serkh Reserve in the High Altai, the population was estimated at 1,000 in 1979 by Dzieciolowski et al. (1980) and at 1,200 by des Clers (1985). Tulgat and Schaller (1992) estimated 600 ibex in the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area. In 1989, in a 200 sq km study area west of Tsogt in the Altai, Schaller et al. (1994) counted 337 ibex, and estimated there may have been a total of up to 450 animals. Reading et al. (1997) recorded 1,218 ibex in 623 sq km of Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Conservation Park, and estimated that a total of 12,166 argali occurred in the park’s 2.17 million ha (5,207 sq km of mountainous areas) (Reading et al., 1999b). Few other rigorously derived estimates of population numbers exist for other parts of Mongolia.

Asiatic ibex is widely distributed over northern Pakistan, but is only locally abundant in the northern part of its range. Hess (1986) found the highest density in northern Pakistan to be in the area along the Barpu Glacier (Gilgit District) with 1.2 to 1.6 animals/km² (n = 194-270 animals, area surveyed = 164 km²). Wegge (1988) estimated that >2,000 ibex lived in the Khunjerab NP, at a slightly lower density of ca. 1.0 ibex/km. In many areas the species has densities of >0.1 to >0.3/km² as in the Shinghai Valley, Gilgit District (n = 15-50 animals, area surveyed = 1 76 km², Hess, 1986). Within the Gilgit District, Asiatic ibex is clearly rarer in the southern than in the northern part. The reasons for this may be that compared to northern areas, elevations in the south are generally lower, there are higher densities of humans using alpine pastures, and there are smaller distances between villages. The census of the NWFP Forest Department (NWFP, 1992) gives 2,545 animals for the whole province; in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a total of 375 were estimated (Qayyum, 1986, 87).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Siberian Ibex primarily occupies mountainous regions from 500-6,700 m asl in rocky terrain and open alpine meadows and crags, seeking out lower elevations during the winter (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). It occupies precipitous habitats in a range of environments from deserts, low mountains and foothills, to high mountain ridges. Siberian ibex can also be found in areas with canyon, rocky outcrops, and steep ‘escape’ terrain far from high mountains (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). The species does not enter forest zones, but on a hot day does prefer shaded areas, it tends to remain near steep, escape terrain (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Its diet consists of alpine grasses and herbs, and it feeds in early morning and evenings (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Ibex live in small groups that vary considerably in size, sometimes forming herds of over 100 animals, but more typically averaging 6-30 animals, depending on the region (Reading et al. 1995, 1997, 1999b, Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Diurnal, they spend the day in alternating periods of activity and rest. Females gestate for 170-180 days (Geptner et al. 1961) and usually give birth to one, sometimes two, kids in the spring. The animals reach sexual maturity at 24 months for females and 18 months for males, although usually only older males mate (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Siberian ibex can live up to 16-17 years Geptner et al. 1961, Fedosenko and Blank 2001).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Throughout its range, ibex are hunted for subsistence use because they have traditionally been an important supplementary food for local people. Poaching also occurs in some areas by military personnel, road maintenance workers, and others, especially in areas accessible by vehicle (Schaller et al., 1987). Additional threats to ibex include competition with livestock for food and habitat, and in some areas by predators. As a result of these threats, some populations have declined significantly, especially in regions with dense human populations.

In 2007, producers of wool products in Nepal began marketing a product they termed “yangir”, which they claimed originated from wild, hunted Capra sibirica. (Some hair fibers from C. sibirica are quite fine, and may potentially be used for high-quality wool). At least one importer based in Germany was marketing these products as high-end, speciality scarves. As of this writing, the origin of these products (and whether they indeed came from C. sibirica) had not yet been determined. Trophy hunting programs in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan produce only a few animals/year, and are unlikely to be the source of a commercially-marketed wool product. If Capra sibirica were being poached specifically to feed this market, formerly stable populations could quickly become threatened.

In Afghanistan, prior to the wars, Siberian ibex was abundant and hunted throughout its range by local tribesmen. The impact of hunting was believed to be limited. Hunting is also the major threat to the species, especially where new roads increase accessibility and modern weapons improve efficiency for hunters.

In China, poaching is a minor threat; guns have mostly been confiscated from pastoralists living near ibex habitat, although some poaching by police and/or military no doubt continues. Competition with livestock may occur.

In India, increased grazing and disturbance from livestock are apparent in some areas (Fox et al., 1986, 1994; Pandey, 1993), whereas in others these activities may be decreasing (Fox et al., unpubl. data). The rugged habitats used by ibex will probably insulate them from excessive competition by livestock (although see Bagchi et al. 2004 for an alternative perspective) so that hunting will remain the primary human influence on populations throughout their range. Possible hybridization of ibex with domestic goats as reported in the Spiti valley (Johnsingh, unpubl. data) needs to be verified and monitored. In Pakistan, competition for food with livestock is a growing threat to Asiatic ibex.

In Mongolia, the major threats to the species include grazing competition and disturbance from livestock, and poaching (Mallon et al. 1997, Clark et al. 2006). Ibex is probably less affected than argali by poaching and competition with livestock, because of the more precipitous and hence less accessible terrain it occupies, yet both probably negatively impact the species (Mallon et al. 1997, Clark et al. 2006). Illegal and unsustainable hunting for meat, trophies and skins remains a threat (Wingard and Zahler 2006), although habitat degradation through grazing by increasing livestock numbers and competition for pasture and water may constitute threats in some areas (Reading et al. 2006b) and increasing resource extraction and mining activities may also result in habitat loss and degradation. Harsh winter weather conditions can also severely impact population sizes locally (Clark et al. 2006).

In Russia, although hunted legally under license, many are shot illegally and in large numbers.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Within Afghanistan, ibex were nominally protected from human harvest by a nationwide presidential ban on hunting. Ibex populations residing in the Ajar valley (in Bamyan Province) were listed by the Government’s National Environmental Protection Agency as legally protected in 2009, effectively banning all hunting and trading of animals from this population within Afghanistan. They are probably present in Band-e Amir National Park, in the Ajar Valley Wildlife Reserve (Shank et al. 1977), which is the only protected area in Afghanistan that is currently operational. A series of nature reserves are currently under consideration in the Pamirs of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. Conservation measures proposed include surveys to determine the current status and distribution of the species, particularly in the Ajar Valley Reserve.

In China, the taxon is listed as Class I in the Wildlife Protection Law. Asiatic ibex occur in at least eight nature reserves in Xinjiang (Du and Zhang 2006), including Khanasi and Source of the 2 Altai Rivers (Altai mountains), Tuomur Feng, Bogda Feng, Tianchi, West Tian Shan, and Hami Shan (Tian Shan range) and Taxkorgan (Pamirs). Conservation measures proposed include determining the status of populations throughout their distribution in China, providing additional protection in some areas (e.g. in the Altai), considering others for development of managed, sustainable trophy hunting programs. These latter programs may be useful where ibex numbers are sufficiently abundant, and where removal or reduction of livestock is advised, local people should be provided with compensation. In northern Gansu, livestock need to be managed to reduce conflicts with C. sibirica. It has also been suggested that a cross-boundary reserve be developed that would join up with the Great Gobi Reserve in Mongolia, not only to protect ibex but also other species.

In India, Asiatic ibex is found in several protected areas in the western Himalayan region (Fox et al. 1986, 1991a, 1994; Gaston et al. 1981; Bhatnagar 2003) including: Jammu and Kashmir - Kishtwar and Hemis National Parks and Kanji, Boodkharbu, Tongri, Rangdum, Karakoram, Lung Nag, Rizong Sabu, and Chukor Wildlife Sanctuaries; Himachal Pradesh - Pin Valley and Great Himalayan (possibly) National Parks and the Daranghati (possibly), Gamgul Siya-Behi, Kanawar, Kugti (locally threatened), Lippa Asrang, Manali (locally threatened), Rupi Bhaba, Sechu Tuan Nala, Tirthan and Tundah (locally threatened) Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Within ex-Soviet Central Asia, Shackleton (1997) reported that ibex were present in the following Nature Reserves (zapovedniks): Kazakhstan: Aksu-Dzhabagly, Alma-Ata and Markakol; Kyrgyzstarz: Besh-Aral, Issyk-Kul’, Naryn and Sary-Chelek; Russia: Sayano-Shushensky and Altai; Tajikistan: Ramit; Uzbekistan: Chatkal, Gissar and Zaamin. Chatkal Nature Reserve is joined as a “cluster reserve” with Sary-Chelek Nature Reserve located 50 km southeast of Tashkent, and occupies the southwest end of Chatkal range in the western Tian Shan (41°N, 69°59’E). Most of these protected areas harbour small populations of between 200 and 400 ibex, although Sayano-Shushensky Reserve has about 1,000, and Alma-Ata has up to 700 animals. The average number of ibex estimated in Chatkal NR between 1984 and 1993 was around 500 animals/year, although numbers fluctuated as much as 30%. A similar number of ibex was estimated for Gissar NR between 1983 and 1990 (Chernagaev et al., 1995). Trophy hunting programs for ibex exist in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Conservation measures proposed included creating an adequate protected areas system for ibex in central and eastern regions of Eastern Sayan, and stopping poaching, with special effort made in areas with currently heavy exploitation. In Mongolia, ibex is a legally protected as a Rare species under the Mongolian Law on Fauna and the Mongolian Hunting Law (Wingard and Odgerel 2002). No general hunting is allowed, but a limited amount of licensed trophy hunting is permitted. The species is listed as Near Threatened in most recent Mongolian Red List (Clark et al. 2006), which represents an upgrade in status from the last 2 Mongolian Red Books, in which the species was listed as Threatened (Shagdarsuren 1987, Shiirevdamba et al. 1997). Approximately 14% of the species’ range is protected (Clark et al. 2006) and it occurs in at least the following protected areas: Altai-Taivan Bogd, Bodgkhan Mountains, Eej Khairkhan Mountain, Great Gobi, Gobi Gurvan Saikhan, Ikh Nart, Khangai Nuruu, Khar-Uvs Lake, Khokh Serkh Mountain, Khovsgol Lake, Otgontenger Mountain, Sharga Natural Reserve, Silkhem Mountain, Tarvagatai Mountain, Tsambagarav, Uvs Lake, and Yoliin Valley. Khokh Serkh Nature Reserve in the Altai region was established specifically for the conservation of this species. Conservation measures proposed: 1) Undertake more rigorous population surveys of all populations; 2) Study the ecology, particularly habitat requirements and movement patterns, and the impacts of livestock grazing on ibex; 3) Hire, train, and equip law enforcement agents, especially for protected areas; 4) Begin using the money generated from trophy hunting to pay for conservation and management of the species; 5) Establish new protected areas to conserve additional populations of ibex; and 6) Collaborate better with Russia and China to protect populations that live in border regions. Trophy hunters purchase hunting licenses from which US$800 for Altai ibex and UD$720 for Gobi ibex are allocated to the government for a quota of 260 animals per year (MNE, 2005). Little to none of this money is used specifically for conservation or management of the species (Amgalanbaatar et al. 2002), although a small percentage of the money goes toward general conservation activities, such as the budgets of regional protected areas administrations. A long term research project on ibex in Ikh Nart has been established for several years now, and 100-150 are estimated to be living within this protected area (R. Reading pers. comm.).

Within Pakistan, Shackleton (1997) reported numerous protected areas providing differing levels of protection to ibex. These include: NWFP - Chitral District: Agram-Basti WS, Goleen Gol GR (Anonymous, 1986); Swat District: Giddar Baik WS, Mahu Dand GR (Zool. Survey Dept., 1987). Northern Areas - Gilgit District: Khunjerab NP, Kargah WS, Naltar WS, Kilik-Mintaka GR, Danyore GR, Sherqillah GR, Pakura Nallah GR, Chassi-Bowshdar GR, Nazbar Nallah GR (Rasool, no date); Diamir District: Astor WS (Rasool n. d.); Baltistan District: Baltistan WS, Satpara WS, Nar Nallah GR, Askor Nallah GR (Rasool, no date). Azad Jammu and Kashmir – Muzaffarabad District: Ghamot GR, Machiara GR (Qayyum, 1986, 87; Zool. Survey Dept., 1986). Mahu Dand GR was created for ibex in 1992. WWF-Pakistan began a hunting program in 1990 at the Bar village near Gilgit (Johnson, 1997, Arshad 2002. In 1991, IUCN-Pakistan, with support from UNDP, in co-operation with local people and the Aga Khan Rural Support Program, initiated a planning process to survey protected areas and to prepare an overall sustainable-use wildlife management plan for ibex populations. The program is to involve hunting by both local and foreign hunters. Conservation measures proposed: 1) Provide complete legal protection for the species. 2) Establish a proper hunting system involving a management plan for locals, as well as for foreigners. Hunting could take place in areas with healthy populations but not in National Parks.
Citation: Reading, R. & Shank, C. 2008. Capra sibirica. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 21 April 2014.
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