Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ABC Wednesday: I is for Ibex

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A male Alpine Ibex (Capra Ibex) - both sexes have horns, but they only grow that long with the males, up to 1m/40" and continue to grow throughout the ibex's life. It takes six years for a buck to grow horns that are impressive enough to have a chance in the fights during rut season. It's not uncommon to see males scratch their own backs with those horns.

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Ibexes can jump severel metres from a standing start and they are incredibly surefooted, with hooves that are soft in the middle and cling to the slightest imperfection in the rock. You may have seen these photos before, but they really show how well Ibex can climb: Some spots on a wall show themselves to be Alpine Ibex and if you think that the dam doesn't look so steep after all, here's a another view. The photos were taken at the Diga del Cingino in Italy.

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They live all over the European Alps, at elevations of 1800-3200 metres/5,900-10,200ft. Most of the year, the sexes live apart. Fermales and they offspring will gather in groups, while old males will remain solitary. Young males will also live in groups, with a very pronounced hierachy that is either judged by horn length or by fighting. Males remember past fights and will act accordingly when they meet a stronger or weaker male. During breeding season from December to January, both sexes live together.

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Ibexes migrate depending on the season, they will climb up to greater heights in summer, when the snow melts. They feed on plants: grass, moss, twigs, flowers and they can feed standing on their hind legs if a plants is out of reach.

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The Ibex was hunted almost to extinction. It was believed that Ibex bodyparts had magical qualities and could cure pretty much anything. At one time only 100 individuals were left and came under the protection of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, who declared the region where those animals lived his private hunting reserve. Some animals were stolen and brought to Switzerland and today, an estimated number of 20,000 ibexes populate the Alps. Adult ibexes have no enemies (except humans), but golden eagles are perfectly capable of snatching a kid.

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Photos were taken at Wildpark Schwarze Berge, Hamburg.
Sources and further reading:
Ultimate Ungulate
Wikipedia

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