Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The walia ibex is a grazer and a browser, feeding on bushes, herbs, lichens, shrubs, grass, and creepers (2), and is often seen stood up on its hind legs to reach the young shoots of giant heath (3). Activity is mainly crepuscular (2), and these ibex can often be seen sunning themselves on rocky ledges in the morning and evening (3). Males form relatively large bachelor groups (2), while females and their young may be seen in groups or, less frequently, singly with their kid (3). Rutting behaviour is displayed throughout the year, with a peak from March to May (2), which involves male ibex competing for herd dominance and access to females by postures, head tosses and fights (5). These displays can be quite dramatic, with opponents rearing up on their hind legs, and then lunging forwards to clash heads and horns with incredible, jarring force (5). Single offspring, or rarely twins, are born after a gestation period of 150 to 165 days, and sexual maturity is reached at one year old (2).
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Description

With its striking colouration and magnificent, arching horns, the walia ibex is an unforgettable sight as it roams the jagged mountain cliffs of northern Ethiopia. These sturdy animals have a beautiful chocolate-brown to chestnut-brown coat that is greyish-brown around the muzzle, paler grey around the eyes, legs and rump, and whitish on the belly and inside of the legs. Contrasting black and white markings pattern the legs and mature males boast a distinguishing black beard. Both males and females possess horns, but the males' are much larger and more imposing, curving backwards in an elegant arc over the body, sometimes reaching lengths of over 110 cm. Females are smaller than males and paler in colour, with shorter, thinner horns (3). The differentiation between species and subspecies status in ibexes is very controversial and remains somewhat debated, with all species previously classified under Capra ibex (4).
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Distribution

Capra walie, or the Walia Ibex, is found exclusively in the mountains of northern Ethiopia. Nearly all of the remaining population resides along 25 kilometers of the northern escarpment in the Simien Mountains National Park (Massicot, 2001).

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Historic Range:
Ethiopia

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Range

Confined to the Semien Mountains of northern Ethiopia, with the greatest concentration now occurring within the Semien National Park, largely along 25 kilometres of the northern escarpment (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Like other members of the genus Capra, Walia Ibex are sexually dimorphic in many aspects of appearance. In overall size, adult females weigh about 80 kilograms, roughly 50-60% of their male counterparts, which can weigh up to 125 kilograms (McDonald, 1984). Horns are semi-circular in shape and are found in both sexes, but male horns are more massive, reaching 110 centimeters in length (Beyene, 2001). Key features of horns are random knots and age rings, both of which distinguish individuals in a population (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1981).

Both sexes of Walia Ibex have black and white markings on their legs and a gray-white underside. The dorsal area is colored chestnut-brown and is darker in males (Nievergelt, 1990). In the wild, females are lighter in color and very inconspicuous (Dunbar, 1978). At older ages, males develop both a black chest and a "beard," further distinguishing the sexes (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1981).

Perhaps as an adaptation to its mountainous environment, Walia Ibex hooves have sharp edges and concave undersides that improves their grip by allowing them to work as a "suction cup" (Beyene, 2001).

Range mass: 80 to 125 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

The Simien Mountains are characterized by huge gorges and gulleys, both of which carve out steep and jagged cliffs. Walia Ibex individuals inhabit only the high cliffs that rise above the lower elevated plateau, providing a potential risk of falling for careless individuals (Beyene, 2001)

At a high elevation and low-latitude, the cliff habitat is conducive to extremes in the seasonality of precipitation and daily temperature fluctuation.

The wet season runs from May until October and is correlated with abundant plant growth and diversity. During the dry season, foods in the form of grasses and shrubs dramatically disappear from most of the landscape (Dunbar, 1978).

At an average elevation of nearly 3500 meters, the Walia Ibex encounters tremendous temperature fluctuations from night to day. On a normal day, the temperature ranges from near freezing to more than 25 degrees Celsius. Despite the fluctuations in daily temperatures, seasonal differences in temperature are minimal due to Ethiopia's proximity to the equator (Nievergelt, 1990).

Range elevation: 2500 to 4500 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: mountains

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An inhabitant of steep, precipitous cliffs between 2,500 and 4,500 metres. Vegetation required includes undisturbed juniper and other mountain forest, sub-alpine grasslands and scrub, in addition to a year-round supply of water (2).
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Trophic Strategy

A "generalized herbivore," Walia Ibex is both a grazer and a browser (Massicot, 2001). In fact, it utilizes a wide variety of grass and shrub material in its diet. Although grazing accounts for a significant part of its diet, this species spends most of its time feeding browsing in the cover of dense shrubs (Dunbar, 1978).

Foods eaten include: grasses, herbs, shrubs, bushes, creepers and lichens.

Plant Foods: leaves; lichens

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Associations

Hyenas appear to be the only predators capable of killing an adult Walia Ibex. However, juveniles are at risk from a large variety of predators ranging from wildcats to foxes (Dunbar, 1978).

Known Predators:

  • hyenas (Hyaenidae)

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Known predators

Capra walie is prey of:
Hyaeninae

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Capra walie preys on:
lichens

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Reproduction

The typical mating system in C. Walie is polygyny, with dominant males siring a disproportionate amount of offspring during the breeding season. These males, because of their large size and fighting experience, are able to monopolize females by obtaining exclusive access to overlapping female home ranges (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1981).

Mating System: polygynous

C. walie is distinguished from other ibex species in its ability to breed at all times of the year. This may be possible because of the lack of temperature seasonality in the tropical Simien Mountains, producing no environmental costs to individuals that breed year-round (Nievergelt, 1990). Nevertheless, most often the Walia Ibex mates during the rut season, from February until April (Nievergelt, 1990). Peak sexual activity between males and females is observed between the months of March and June, overlapping with the short rut season (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1981). C. walie individuals reach sexual maturity at the age of one (Massicot, 2001). Both sexes continue to grow, however, and age is correlated with body size (Dunbar and Dunbar, 1981).

Breeding season: February-June

Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .

Average number of offspring: 1.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

Parental Investment: altricial

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Over the last half-century, Walia Ibex has been considered one of the most endangered ungulates in the world (Nievergelt, 1990). Today, this species is deemed "critically endangered" primarily because of the very small population left in the wild. In fact, recent estimates predict the number of remaining individuals to be no greater than 400 (Massicot, 2001).

Pressures on the remaining population take the form of limited habitat and poaching. Although not as large a problem as was in the past, poaching still does occur to some degree inside the national park (Beyene, 2001). On another note, increasing the population numbers in the future will inevitably be difficult as estimates predict that Walia Ibex's current habitat can only handle around 2000 individuals (Beyene, 2001).

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Ethiopia


Population detail:

Population location: Ethiopia
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Capra walie , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Threats

Its inaccessible habitat afforded a degree of protection to the walia ibex until the arrival of modern firearms, after which the population rapidly declined. Subsequently, this ibex has suffered extensive hunting by local people for its meat, hides and horns (2). The horns have been used by local people to make drinking mugs, and also as trophies by sportsmen to decorate their homes (3). Additionally, important habitat has been threatened by encroaching settlement, livestock grazing and cultivation (6). Road construction is fragmenting habitat and facilitating traffic, which increases the chance of erosion and noise disturbance (7). In 1963, it was estimated that between just 150 and 200 individuals remained (3) but, with the creation of the Semien National Park around 1969, poaching appeared to be brought under control (2). The species is now reported to number over 500 and to be on the increase (6). A major conservation problem remaining, however, is that the natural habitat left is extremely limited (2).
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Management

Conservation

In 1969, the Semien National Park was established to protect the habitat and the endangered wildlife it sustained, and the walia ibex became a 'flagship' species for the area (1). The park was also placed on the World Heritage List in 1978 (7). Guards were appointed from Geech to Mietgogo to curb local poaching and illegal cultivation and burning of habitat, resulting in a steady increase in numbers in the past fifteen years (3). It can be difficult to enforce the current protection laws (3) and human encroachment continues, but a recent report suggests that hunting now seems to be almost non-existent (7). It appears, therefore, that the presence of park scouts is having some success in this respect, since local attitudes do not seem to have changed to demonstrate awareness or concern for the plight of these animals (7). Propagating a greater awareness and understanding of the grave position of the magnificent walia ibex, both amongst the local communities and government officials, is therefore an important focus for future conservation efforts in the battle to save this Endangered species (3) (7).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Positive Impacts: food

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Wikipedia

Walia ibex

The walia ibex (Capra walie, Ge'ez: ዋልያ wālyā) is an endangered species of ibex. It is sometimes considered a subspecies of the Alpine ibex. Threats against the species include habitat loss, poaching, and restricted range; only about 500 individuals survived in the mountains of Ethiopia, concentrated in the Semien Mountains, largely due to past poaching and habitat depletion. If the population were to increase, the surrounding mountain habitat would be sufficient enough to sustain only 2,000 ibex. The adult walia ibex's only known wild predator is the hyena. However, young ibex are often hunted by a variety of fox and cat species. The ibex are members of the goat family, and the walia ibex is the southernmost of today's ibexes. In the late 1990s, the walia ibex went from endangered to critically endangered due to the declining population. The walia ibex is also known as the Abyssinian ibex.

Appearance[edit]

Rüppell's depiction of the species (1835).

These animals have a chocolate-brown to chestnut-brown coat coloration, greyish-brown muzzle, and a lighter grey in the eyes and legs. The belly and insides of the legs are white, and black and white patterns stretch upon the legs of these animals. The males weigh 80–125 kg (180-280 lb) and have very large horns which curve backwards, reaching lengths up to 110 cm (43 in). These horns are used for dominance disputes between males. The males also have distinguished black beards. The length of the walia ibex beard varies with age. The older males have longer, thicker beards than the young ones . Females also have horns, but they are shorter and thinner. Females are smaller and lighter in color. The horns on both males and females are rigid. The overall size of the walia ibex is smaller and slimmer than the alpine ibex.

Behaviour[edit]

Walia ibex live in herds ranging from five to 20 animals. However the older, more mature males are often more solitary, though they will remain within a short distance of the main herd most times and during the mating season and rejoin with the herd for breeding purposes. Breeding usually takes place during late fall and early winter. The following spring, the female will give birth to one or two offspring. A herd of walia ibex was noted to travel one half of a kilometer up to two kilometers per day.

Habitat and ecology[edit]

The walia ibex lives in very steep, rocky cliff areas between 2,500 and 4,500 m (8,200 and 14,800 ft) high. Their habitats are mountain forests, subalpine grasslands, and scrub. They are grazers. Their diets include bushes, herbs, lichens, shrubs, grasses, and creepers. They are often seen standing on their hind legs to get to young shoots of giant heath. Walia ibex are most active in the morning and evening, and will rest in the sun on rock ledges. Males live in bachelor groups and females live in groups with their offspring. Mating season is at summit from March to May. Males compete for females by ramming their horns with amazing force. Gestation periods last 150–165 days. They reach sexual maturity at one year of age.

Population and threats[edit]

This species is only found in the northern mountains of Ethiopia. Once widespread in the Semien Mountains, the numbers dropped during the 20th century. Only 200–250 animals were surviving in 1994-1996, but recently the population has somewhat increased to about 500 individuals in 2004. Habitat loss and hunting are major threats to the species. Encroaching settlement, livestock grazing, and cultivation are also big problems. Road construction is also fragmenting their habitat. The most important stronghold for their survival is now the 13,600 ha (34,000 acres) sized Semien National Park which was established in 1969. The walia ibex is considered to be endangered by the IUCN and needs further conservation measures to survive. Since no captive population is kept anywhere in the world, the IUCN recommends capturing a few individuals to form the nucleus of a captive breeding group.[1]

Conservation[edit]

The Capra Walie/Walia ibex live exclusively in Ethiopia (eastern Africa [west of Somalia]). There are many parts protected all over Africa however since the numbers are so small they don’t actually live in any of these protected areas aside from one which doesn’t protect their full range it actually protects only twenty percent (both these protected areas are national parks). The Simen national park is trying to create wildlife corridors which separate and spread out the Capra Walie/Walie ibex and other fauna. These corridors help prevent inbreeding and Capra Walie/Walia ibex that are akin. Roads and developed areas can serve as wildlife corridors.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Geberemedhin, B. & Grubb, P. (2008). Capra walie. 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 endangered.
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