Capra sibirica is concentrated in multiple mountain ranges throughout central Asia, as far north as southern Siberia. There are multiple, distinct populations in Mongolia and China, and throughout the central Asian ranges to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
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).
Body length of a mature male Siberian ibex can range from 130 to 165 cm, with a female maximum length averaging slightly longer than 135 cm. Height at the withers is 80 to 100 cm in males. Chest circumference ranges from 92 to 125 cm in males, and 74 to 89 cm in females. Ear and tail lengths are similar between sexes, with ear length from 14 to 16 cm and tail length from 10 to 18 cm. Mass is 80 to 100 kg in males and 30 to 40 kg in females (Heptner et al., 1988).
Capra sibirica is the largest member of the genus Capra. They are stout and thick, with short necks and large rib cages (Heptner et al. 1988). Sexual dimorphism is pronounced within Siberian ibexes. This is evident in seasonal pelage, body size, weight, and horn dimensions.
The bow-shaped horns of C. sibirica are also the largest within the genus. The horns of males measure 100 to 148 cm (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). The maximum length of female horns is 37 to 38 cm (Heptner et al. 1988). Horns of females are also much thinner than those of males. Similar to other ibexes, the anterior surface of Siberian ibex horns are segmented by transverse ridges.
Significant variation in pelage color is one reason that C. sibirica has be given more names than any other animal in the genus (Heptner et al. 1988). Color variation can be attributed to size, age, sex, season, and specific range.
Siberian ibexes share many common pelage characteristics with other members of Capra, such as light abdomens and a dark stripe running along the back, from the neck to the tail (Schaller 1977). Siberian ibexes have light yellowish undersides, becoming lighter around the groin (Heptner et al. 1988). They have darker brown patches that can be found on parts of their head, shoulders, legs, chest, beard, and flanks (Fedosenko and Blank 2001, Heptner et al. 1988). The darker brown patches can vary greatly or even be absent on certain individuals completely.
Range mass: 30 to 100 kg.
Range length: 130 to 165 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; ornamentation
- Fedosenko, A., D. Blank. 2001. Capra sibirica. American Society of Mammalogists, 675: 1-13.
- Schaller, G. 1977. Mountain Monarchs. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
Throughout its range, C. sibirica inhabits rocky mountain zones, especially those containing steep slopes (Heptner et al. 1988) The elevation inhabited by C. sibirica can range greatly due to seasonal weather conditions. There is also a large elevation difference between the mountain ranges they occupy. They inhabit mountain ranges from 500 m to over 5000 m above sea level (Heptner et al. 1988).
Range elevation: 500 to >5000 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: mountains
- Heptner, V., A. Nasimovich, A. Bannikov. 1988. Mammals of the Soviet Union. Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution LIbraries and The National Science Foundation.
Habitat and Ecology
Siberian ibexes are generally diurnal herbivores. They feed nocturnally and eat some fruits, such as dogrose (Rosa) and currants (Ribes hispidulum) (Fedosenko and Blank 2001, Heptner et al. 1988). Daily activity is dominated by feeding and resting or ruminating. The amount of time for each varies with season. During seasons marked with shorter daylight hours, Siberian ibexes spend a greater part of the day feeding than resting (Heptner et al 1988). The amount of green food intake varies between sexes, with males eating up 16 kg a day and females 8 to 10 kg (Fedosenko and Blank 2001).
Around 140 different plant species are known to be consumed by C. sibirica (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). The species of plants they consume can differ throughout their range and with seasonal availability. Green grasses (Reogneria) are a significant part of the Siberian ibex diet in the spring and summer, along with grasses, shoots, stems, and leaves, which are eaten in autumn (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Siberian ibexes favor south-facing slopes in winter because decreased snow depth leaves food more accessible. Needles and buds of trees are common food during the winter because of accessibility above the snow. Depending on the amount of water received through food, Siberian ibexes can go multiple days without water, and frequent salt licks throughout the year (Heptner et al. 1988).
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; fruit; flowers; lichens
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Siberian ibexes can be a significant prey item for many species. Fedosenko and Blank (2001) found the remains of 30 Siberian ibexes over the course of a single snow leopard’s 14 km hunt. Snow leopards are the most common predator of Capra sibirica.
Siberian ibexes host many different species of ectoparasites and endoparasites. The presence of ectoparasites on Siberian ibexes creates a symbiotic relation with magpies (Pica pica), and other birds (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). These birds benefit from food that is supported on the body of Siberian ibex, while Siberian ibexes benefit from being groomed (Fedosenko and Blank 2001).
Throughout their distribution, Siberian ibexes browse and graze, impacting vegetation communities. They pose little competition to other ungulates that occupy the same mountain ranges because range overlap is infrequent.
- magpies (Pica pica)
Young Siberian ibexes can emit a bleat to signal danger, while adults give off a whistle. Though Siberian ibexs vocally signal to each other when a predator is near, their best weapon against predation is their ability to maneuver on steep, rocky terrain. The presence of a callus on the carpal joint aids in the ability of Siberian ibex to move up steep rocky slopes (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). They also have soft, elastic pads on their hooves, surrounded by a hard horny material, which increases traction (Heptner et al. 1988, Schaller 1977). Siberian ibexes maintain close proximity to escape terrain. It was found by Fox et al. (1992) that the Siberian ibexes always stayed within 350 m of escape terrain.
Hiding is the primary defense against predators during the first few days of a kid’s life. Siberian ibex kids can be preyed upon by golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), and hiding or staying close to adult animals are the main defense tactics. Snow leopards (Uncia uncia) prey on Siberian ibex more than any other predator (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Snow leopards often take mature male Siberian ibexes because of their poor post-rut condition. Lynx (Lynx lynx), brown bears (Ursus arctos), and wolves (Canis lupus) also prey on C. sibirica. Wolves are able to kill Siberian ibexes by stopping them before they reach their escape terrain (Fedosenko and Blank 2001).
- Fox, J., S. Sinha, R. Chundawat. 1992. Activity Patterns and Habitat Use of Ibex in the Himalaya Mountains of India. Journal of Mammalogy, 73/3: 527-534.
Life History and Behavior
Siberian ibexes generally communicate for mating, predator alarm, and recognition. Females recognize their newborn through its scent during the first few days after birth, and rely on sight shortly thereafter (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Females also call their young for feeding. Communication during the rut often includes physical posturing in which males perform flehmen. Flehmen behavior can be seen to some degree in many different mammalian orders (Eisenberg and Kleiman 1972). It is a common response displayed by males in response to female urine during the rut. Flehmen is generally initiated by a raise and curl of the upper lip, along with shutting the external nares (Keverne 1999). This allows access to the vomeronasal organ (VNO), which aids in chemoreception and determination of female estrus condition (Keverne 1999).
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
- Eisenberg, J., D. Kleiman. 1972. Olfactory Communication in Mammals. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 3: 1-32.
- Keverne, E. 1999. The Vomeronasal Organ. Science, 286/5440: 716-720.
Male Siberian ibexes can live up to 15 years, and females up to 17 years in the wild, though males generally live for eight to ten years (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). A female Siberian ibex has been reported to live over 22 years in captivity in a London Zoo (Fedosenko and Blank 2001).
Status: wild: 17 (high) years.
Status: captivity: >22 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 22.3 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
A breeding hierarchy between male Siberian ibexes is often established through fighting. Multiple aggressive tactics are used, including clashes of horns, with both males either facing each other or standing next to one another (Schaller 1977). According to Heptner et al. (1988), mortality is rare during such fights.
Male Siberian ibexes begin courting females by approaching with a low-stretch pose (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Males then sniff and lick the female before letting out a low scream, which causes the female to run away from the male (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). This can result in the female hitting the male with her horns, or urinating, which provokes the male to perform flehmen (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). According to Fedosenko and Blank (2001), this courtship behavior lasts over 30 minutes. A pair must separate themselves from other animals for successful copulation to occur because of the heavy competition between males for access to females (Baskin and Danell 2003).
Mating System: polygynous
The timing of mating seasons for C. sibirica varies between mountain ranges and is significantly affected by weather conditions. The mating season (rut) can start in October and extend into January, due to differences between ranges and weather conditions. According to Fedosenko and Blank (2001), estrus lasts 20 days and an occasional second estrus can extend the duration of the rut.
The rut generally starts when mature males migrate down in elevation to join female groups. Males generally don’t breed until they are five years old, when they can be competitive against other males. Females can breed as early as their second year (Heptner et al. 1988). Mature males will establish and guard harems of five to fifteen females (Heptner et al. 1988).
Gestation lasts 170 to 180 days, commonly resulting in the birth of one kid (Heptner et al. 1988). In one study, only two of 56 pregnant, captured females bore twins (Heptner et al. 1988). Though young Siberian ibexes can graze like adults within 1.5 months of birth, they have been known to suckle into December (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). Depending on when kids are weaned, they can suckle for the first five to eight months of life.
Breeding interval: Siberian ibexes breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Mating generally occurs around November.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 5.67 to 6 months.
Range weaning age: 5 to 8 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 5 (high) years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Female Siberian ibexes leave their groups and yearlings for around a week before and after parturition and give birth in solitude (Fedosenko and Blank 2001). After birth the mother licks the neonate clean. A few days following birth, the newborn is often left alone to hide from predators. This length of time can vary depending on the ability of the young to handle the terrain (Schaller 1977).
Young Siberian ibexes generally stay close to their mothers for protection, and bleat at signs of danger. Fedosenko and Blank (2001) report that young Siberian ibex may run to the closest adult females for protection in the presence of danger. Suckling decreases each month after birth, and can extend into December, though young continue to live with their mothers through the following year (Fedosenko and Blank 2001).
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents
- Baskin, L., K. Danell. 2003. Ecology of Ungulates: a handbook of specier in Eastern Europe and Northern and Central Asia. Germany: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
- Fedosenko, A., D. Blank. 2001. Capra sibirica. American Society of Mammalogists, 675: 1-13.
- Heptner, V., A. Nasimovich, A. Bannikov. 1988. Mammals of the Soviet Union. Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution LIbraries and The National Science Foundation.
- Schaller, G. 1977. Mountain Monarchs. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Capra sibirica
No available public DNA sequences.
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Capra sibirica
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
According to IUCN/SSC, Siberian ibex populations are greater than 250,000 animals, and are considered to be at low risk on the 1996 IUCN Red List (Shackleton 1997). Considering the Siberian ibex at low risk can be deceptive because the rate of habitat loss to livestock is increasing and habitats are becoming more easily accessible via motorized vehicles, increasing poaching (Shackleton 1997). Stringent hunting regulations and protected areas have been developed throughout the Siberian ibex range to protect populations.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
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).
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.
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.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Siberian ibexes pose little threat to humans, though they have been known to compete with domestic animals for food.
The Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica) is a species of ibex that lives in central Asia. It has traditionally been treated as a subspecies of the Alpine ibex, and whether it is specifically distinct from other ibex is still not entirely clear. It is the longest and heaviest members of the genus Capra, though its shoulder height is surpassed by the markhor.
Siberian ibexes are large and heavily built goats, although individual sizes vary greatly. Males are between 88 and 110 cm (35 and 43 in) in shoulder height, and weigh between 60 and 130 kg (130 and 290 lb). Females are noticeably smaller, with heights between 67 and 92 cm (26 and 36 in), and weights between 34 and 56 kg (75 and 123 lb). The nose is straight in profile, the neck short, and the back straight. The neck is also particularly thick and muscular in males, but much less so in females. Both sexes have beards, although the male's beard is more pronounced, and those of females are sometimes absent altogether. Both sexes also possess a large scent gland, about 3 cm (1.2 in) across, beneath the tail.
The female's horns are relatively small, and grey-brown in colour, measuring an average of 27 cm (11 in) long. Those of fully-grown males are black and typically measure about 115 cm (45 in), although in extreme cases they can grow to 148 cm (58 in). Both sexes have circular rings around their horns that represent annual growth, but males also have large transverse ridges along the front surface. The exact shape of the horns varies considerably between individuals.
The colouration is also variable, from dark brown to light tan, with some reddish individuals. There is usually a stripe of darker hair down the centre of the back and onto the tail, and some males have saddle-like patches on the back in the winter. The undersides are paler, and, in the winter, mature males becoming much darker with white patches. Females and infants are generally more bland in colour than the adult males, and do not always have the stripe down the back. Siberian ibexes typically moult between April and July, developing their paler summer coat, which continues to grow and become darker as the year progresses, reaching the full winter condition around December.
- C. s. sibirica - Sayan Mountains
- C. s. alaiana - Alay Mountains
- C. s. hagenbecki - western Mongolia
- C. s. sakeen - Pamir Mountains, western Himalayas, and Afghanistan
The rut takes place from late October to early January. During the rut, the males spend considerable effort courting females, and they are often emaciated from lack of grazing by the time it ends. Courtship lasts for over 30 minutes, and consists of licking, ritualised postures, and flehmen if the female urinates. Males compete for dominance during the rut, rearing up on their hind legs and clashing their horns together.
Gestation lasts 170 to 180 days, and usually results in the birth of a single kid, although twins occur in up to 14% of births, and triplets are born on rare occasions. Newborn kids weigh about 3 kg (6.6 lb), and grow rapidly during their first year. The horns are visible after about three to four weeks. They begin to eat grass as little as eight days after birth, but do not do so regularly until they are about one month old, and are not fully weaned until six months.
Males are sexually mature at eighteen months, but do not reach their full adult size for nine years. Females first breed in their second year. Males typically live for ten years in the wild, and females for up to seventeen years. They have been reported to live for up to 22 years in captivity.
Usually living at high elevations, sometimes at the vegetation line and well above the tree line, Siberian ibexes seek out lower slopes during the winter in search of food. They have also been known to seek out tree lines on hot days, but they do not enter forested areas, preferring to return to their alpine habitat when the weather has cooled. When snow is heavy, they have to paw away snow to reach the vegetation below.
Their diet primarily consists of alpine grasses and herbs. During spring and summer, grasses and sedges form the bulk of their diet, while during winter they eat more tall herbs, and the twigs and needles of trees such as aspen, spruce, juniper, and willow. During the summer, they often visit salt licks. Herds vary in size depending on the local population; about 5-30 is most common, although they can become much larger during the rut. Outside of the rut, most herds are single-sex, although some mixed-sex herds persist throughout the year. Herds spend much of the day grazing, spending an hour or more at each location before moving on.
Habitat and distribution
Siberian ibexes live mostly above the tree line, in areas of steep slopes and rocky scree. Their habitat consists of a mixture of high altitude tundra, alpine meadows, and regions of semidesert. In the Gobi Desert, they may be found on hills as low as 700 m (2,300 ft), but they are more commonly found between about 2,000 and 5,000 metres (6,600 and 16,400 ft) in summer, descending to lower, sometimes sparsely forested, slopes during the winter.
Most Siberian ibexes are seen in central and northern Asia, Afghanistan, western and northern China (Primarily Xinjiang), north-western India, south-eastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, eastern Uzbekistan, Mongolia, northern Pakistan, and south-central Russia.
- Reading, R. & Shank, C. (2008). Capra sibirica. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
- Huffman, B. (2004). Capra sibirica. ultimateungulate.com
- Fedosenko, A.K. & Blank, D.A. (2001). "Capra sibirica". Mammalian Species: Number 675: pp. 1–13. doi:10.1644/1545-1410(2001)675<0001:CS>2.0.CO;2.
- Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.