Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana)

Synonyms: Capra ibex nubiana
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusCapra (1)
SizeBody length: 105-125 cm (2)
Tail length: 15-20 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 65-75 cm (2)
Weight25-70 kg (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

This relatively small ibex is most easily recognised by the impressive, backward-arching horns of the male, which are long, slender and ridged on their outer curve, casting a magnificent silhouette against the rocky, mountainous terrain of its surroundings. Whilst found in both sexes, these horns are much larger in males than females, growing up to 120 cm on bucks, and only 35 cm on females. The coat is a light sandy brown colour, with a white underbelly, while the legs bear conspicuous black-and-white markings (2). Bucks have a dark stripe down the back and older males have a long, dark beard (2) (3). During the October rut, the neck, chest, sides, shoulders and upper legs of the bucks become dark brown to almost black in colour (2). The differentiation between species and subspecies status in ibexes is very controversial and remains somewhat debated, with all species previously classified under Capra ibex (2).

Northeastern Africa and parts of Arabia (2), including Egypt, Ethiopia, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen (1). Formerly also in Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic (1).

A rocky-desert dwelling species found in rough, dry, mountainous terrain (2). In the summer, the Nubian ibex moves further up the mountain to avoid the heat, returning to lower elevations in the winter (3).

Nubian ibex reside in single sex herds of up to 20, with offspring remaining with their maternal herd for their first three years (2) (3). Mating occurs during the late summer months, especially October (2), when the strongest males fight and compete for the right to breed by pushing against each other with their horns (4). Gestation lasts about five months and the majority of young are born in March (2). A litter size of one is usual, but twins and, very rarely, triplets occur (5). Sexual maturity is reached at two to three years, and offspring then leave their natal herd. Individuals can live up to 17 years (2).

This diurnal species is active during the day and rests by night. The light, shiny coat is thought to help reflect incoming solar radiation, which allows the animal to remain active throughout the day, even during hot summer afternoons (2). The Nubian ibex is extremely agile, often maneuvering down steep, precipitous terrain to graze on grasses and leaves during the day, and later returning to the cliffs at night (2) (3). The main predators of the ibex are leopards, eagles and bearded vultures (2). When threatened, individuals will rise up on their very strong hind legs and point their powerful-looking horns towards their predator (3).

A combination of threats face the Nubian ibex, which vary in severity across the species’ range. Competition with livestock and feral camels is thought to pose a threat in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as is competition with the expanding feral donkey (Equus asinus) population in Oman. The availability and distribution of waterholes in Egypt, which fluctuate from year to year, are also likely to be a major influence on ibex populations. Water resources are also scarce and under competition in Israel, and contamination of these water sources is a major potential threat. Habitat loss and degradation provides considerable cause for concern. High levels of tourists are found at watering, feeding and birthing sites in Israel, and the extension of roads, livestock encroachment and other development pressures are radically degrading habitat in Saudi Arabia, in and around the ibex’s remaining refuges. The small size and fragmentation of remaining ibex populations in much of their range is worrying, since limited opportunities for dispersal may lead to reduced genetic diversity and decreased chances of survival. Hunting is an additional threat to the species across its range, in greater and lesser degrees. In Yemen, automatic weapons are owned by many people throughout the country, where hunting probably poses the greatest threat to the ibex (1).

A general ban on hunting ibex was created in Saudi Arabia in 1979, but poaching remains difficult to control, especially in remote areas. The species is more effectively protected from hunting in Israel (1). The Nubian ibex appears in a number of protected areas, including two Saudi Arabian reserves created by the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD) primarily for the protection of this species. These are At-Tubayq and Hawtat Bani Tamim, which are patrolled by a permanent staff of rangers (6). The Dana Nature Reserve and Mujib Reserve in Jordan also hold Nubian ibex populations. Additionally, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) established a captive-breeding centre in the Mujib Reserve in 1989, where the initial group of 20 ibex has multiplied to over 100 animals. Over 30 of these animals have now been successfully returned to the wild (7). With the species’ range including so many countries it is difficult to coordinate the same policies and conservation efforts throughout. However, it is essential that there is a cooperative effort between countries to maintain contiguous tracts of habitat and protect this magnificent ibex, if further local extinctions are to be prevented.

For more information on the Nubian ibex see:

IUCN Red List:
http://www.redlist.org

The Ultimate Ungulate Page:
http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Capra_nubiana.html

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. The Ultimate Ungulate Page (January, 2006)
    http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Capra_nubiana.html
  3. WhoZoo – Animals of the Fort Worth Zoo (January, 2006)
    http://www.whozoo.org/Intro99/ortega/aortnubianibex.htm
  4. Ministry of Information: Sultanate of Oman (January, 2006)
    http://www.omanet.om/english/tourism/wildlife/wild.asp?cat=tour&subcat=wild
  5. University of California, San Diego: School of Medicine (January, 2006)
    http://medicine.ucsd.edu/cpa/ibexfs.htm
  6. BirdLife International (January, 2006)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sites/index.html
  7. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) (January, 2006)
    http://www.rscn.org.jo/reservesFaunaAndFlora.asp