30 April 2017

Nubian Ibex – Asir Mountains

Whilst in the Asir Mountains on 1 April 2017 Phil Roberts and I found two Nubian Ibex Capra nubiana in an area of steep rocky montane hills, altitude of 2000 metres above sea level. The mountains were made of crystalline rock with an average rainfall of +/-370 mm year. The animals appeared to be a female and well-grown young and where only seen for a short period before they disappeared from view and could not be found again despite extensive searching. Despite only seeing them briefly a single photo was obtained by me that is shown below. Very few people have seen this species in the wild in Saudi Arabia and whilst talking to a local farmer we found out that two animals had been seen in the area once in the last year but had not been seen for many years prior to this. This fact is borne out by the latest surveys where only seven where seen on one occasion in the south-west near to where we saw our animals despite helicopter and land surveys being undertaken. In Saudi Arabia, few systematic censuses have been made with most data coming from brief aerial and ground reconnaissance surveys made to locate populations during 1987-1989. Among the 15 sites where ibex were found, major concentrations occur in the western mountains of the Arabian shield, with isolated populations located in the north, north-central and central regions. Only scattered observations have been made in the south. The highest densities appear to be in Jabal Qaraqar, Hemah Fiqrah and Hawtat bani Tamim Ibex Reserve. Ancient rock drawings dating back several thousand years depicting Nubian ibex are to be found throughout Saudi Arabia and testify to man's long association with this species. The distribution of the Nubian ibex in Saudi Arabia spans a wide diversity of habitat types. The relict population found in the central Tuwayq occupies low-altitude, dissected escarpments of sedimentary rock, which are treeless, except in narrow canyons, where precipitation averages 50 mm a year. By contrast, ibex in the south-west of the country occupy juniper-dominated mountain summits with elevations in excess of 2000 m, and where rainfall averages over 350 mm a year. All the sites where they live area characterized by difficult terrain, which tends to limit access to livestock, and the vegetation, in terms of structure and species diversity, has remained relatively intact in these areas. There are no population estimates in the Kingdom, but overall, numbers are believed to be decreasing in areas where ibex are not protected. In contrast, ibex numbers are believed to be increasing in the two protected areas where recruitment is satisfactory and females appear to give birth to twins frequently. In the Hawtat bani Tamim Ibex Reserve, the most recent census (Spring 2007) recorded 400 individuals. The Nubian Ibex is legally protected by a hunting by-law, passed in 1979, which along with gazelles, gives the species total protection. In Saudi Arabia, it occurs in two official reserves at Tubayq Reserve in the north, and the Ibex Reserve in Hawtat bani Tamim in the east-central region. The Nubian Ibex is listed as Vulnerable under the ICUN Red List as it has an estimated population of less than 10,000 mature individuals possibly as few as 2500 mature animals with a continuing decline rate estimated at 10% over two generations (generation length estimated at 8 years). This species occurs in Egypt east of the Nile, north-east Sudan, northern Ethiopia and western Eritrea, Israel, west Jordan, scattered locations in western and central Saudi Arabia, scattered locations in Yemen, and in southern Oman. It is extinct in Lebanon and Syria.
Nubian Ibex