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

Range Description

Ethiopia is home to the world’s only population of Walia Iibex, which is found only in and around the Simien Mountains (Yalden et al. 1984; Hillman et al. 1997; Nievergelt in press) in the North Gonder Administrative Zone of the Amhara National Regional State of north-western Ethiopia. Formerly more widespread in the Simen Mountains, most remaining Walia Ibex are found within the boundaries of the Simien Mountains National Park (13,600 ha), mainly along 25 km of the northern escarpment between Adarmaz Camp and Chennek Camp. There are also four small populations outside the protected area: north of Werk Amba west of the park; between Silki and Walka north-east of the park; between Bwahit and Mesarerya; and just north of Weynobar along the Ras Dejen escarpment to the north (Hillman et al. 1997).
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Geographic Range

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

Physical Description

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

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The Simien Mountains are characterized by huge gorges and gulleys, both of which carve out steep and jagged cliffs, with this species inhabiting only the high cliffs that rise above the lower elevated plateau. However, ibex may descend to plateaus in areas where there is less human interference or disturbance.

Walia Ibex have varied social units, such as female-based groups that include kids and young males until they are about two or three years, groups of adult males, and mixed groups (Nievergelt 1981, Dunbar and Dunbar 1981). Most groups are relatively small, although groups of more than 50 individuals have been observed (Ludi 2006). Sexual segregation is pronounced mostly during parturition and lactation. This species is polygynous, with breeding year round, unlike other ibex species; however, there is a rutting peak from March to May. The diet of the Walia Ibex includes a great variety of herbaceous and woody plants (Dunbar 1978, Nievergelt 1981).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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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

Food Habits

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

Predation

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:

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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

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)

Parental Investment: altricial

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(iii); D

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Geberemedhin, B. & Grubb, P.

Reviewer/s
Festa-Bianchet, M. & Harris, R. (Caprinae Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Endangered as the total population of the species is estimated at around 500 individuals (probably less than 250 mature individuals total), largely confined to the Simien Mountains National Park. Although the population has been showing signs of increase over the past decade or so, the habitat continues to be degraded by human encroachment.

History
  • 1996
    Critically Endangered
  • 1994
    Endangered
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1988
    Endangered
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Endangered
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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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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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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Status

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

Population
In 2004, the poulation stood at around 500, a slight increase over earlier estimates of 200-250 animals in 1994-1996 (Nievergelt in press). The population has been showing signs of increase over the past decade or so.

Population Trend
Increasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Having survived two decades of war, the main threat to this species is now habitat destruction caused by human encroachment (the remaining natural habitat is extremely limited), even though most of the villagers who lived in the lowland areas of the Park were resettled outside the Park in 1978. However, they have returned once again taking advantage of the war that occurred over the last two decades or so and are residing within the National Park creating increasing pressure on the Park and its wildlife. Today, there are over 30,000 people living within and just outside of the National Park boundary. Despite the existence of national and regional legislation, the remoteness of the area coupled with the existence of people living within and outside of the Park prior to its establishment as a Conservation Area makes legislation difficult to enforce.

A few Walia ibex also move to the south-east of their natural range to feed on cultivated crops at places where there is cultivation of barley and other crops on steep gradients. These incidences occasionally lead to conflict with local farmers (B. Gebremedhin pers. comm.).
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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 Actions

Conservation Actions
The Walia Ibex is protected by Ethiopian law and cannot be hunted except under a Special Permit for Hunting Game Animals for Scientific Purposes. The Walia Ibex is used by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization (EWCO) and the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS) as their emblem, and frequently features in other Ethiopian symbolism (such as the national football team).

The Simen Mountains National Park, which contains the majority of the world population of this species, was gazetted by the Simen National Park Order No. 59 (1969) and became a World Heritage Site in 1978. Here the Walia Ibex may be receiving adequate if limited protection. The Park, while providing a core conservation area, must be considered in terms of a much larger environmental unit. It is essential to maintain wildlife corridors between the Park and surrounding areas of the Simen mountains. A detailed management plan for the Park and surrounding areas was developed after a 20-year inter-disciplinary research program (Hurni 1986). It deals not only with the Walia Ibex, but all the area’s unique wildlife, as well as the needs of the rural human population. Currently, the Park is administered by the Parks and Wildlife Administration Authority of the Regional Government. The park has attracted more international and national attention following its inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1996. An integrated conservation and development project – the Simen Mountains National Integrated Development Project - funded by the Austrian Government and implemented in collaboration with the Parks Authority has resulted in considerable conservation activity in the last seven years.

The following conservation measures have been proposed: 1) establish the 400 km² buffer zone proposed in the 1986 Management Plan (Hurni 1986) for Simen Mountains National Park, which would increase the effective area of Simen Mountains National Park to 590 km² and serve two main functions; 2) reduce human and livestock impact in the National Park; 3) prohibit all hunting within the Park and enforce regulations effectively; 4) although no hybrids of domestic goats with Walia Ibex have been reported, free-ranging domestic goats must be eliminated from the Park and around other ibex populations to exclude the possibility of hybridization occurring; 5) with no Walia Ibex in captivity anywhere in the world, a small number should be captured to form the nucleus of a captive-breeding group in a closely managed and protected location in Ethiopia, and for a captive-breeding population outside the country; and 6) establish a monitoring programme that includes systematic execution and control of the conservation measures (Hillman et al. 1997; Nievergelt in press). A detailed ecological study of the species and habitat assessment on the potential new areas for re-establishment is needed.
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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

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

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.

Behavior[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]

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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