Nubian Ibex Fact File
Credit: Public Domain
Wild 12 years
Captive 17 years
Grass, Weeds, Leaves
A Goat Built for Life on the Cliffs!
The Nubian ibex resembles a goat with a large pair of horns on their head. These can reach lengths of up to 1.2m (4ft) long in males. Females also have horns though they are much smaller.
This species is a herbivore which will feed on grasses, leaves, forbs and seed pods.
They are designed for life on the cliffs. These can be almost vertical with little space to stand and the Nubian ibex will manage to scale them with ease.
Increasingly this species is threatened by habitat degradation and hunting which has already caused their extinction in some areas.
Read on to learn more about these marvellous mammals.
What does the Nubian Ibex look like?
Across the body the Nubian ibex is covered by a coat of sandy-brown fur. On the underside they have white fur. The males sport a thick, black stripe running along the back.
As males grow they will develop a dark beard of fur under the throat. Some elderly females will also develop a small beard.
A male Nubian ibex is equipped with a pair of impressive horns. These can help to impress the female and defend themselves. They will grow up to 1.2m (4ft) long and curve backwards over the body. These horns are dark in color and have rings at regular positions along them. The size of these rings known as annuli can be impacted by drought during the period of growth.
Females also sport horns though much smaller. They reach lengths of 36cm (14in) long.
At the end of the body is a short, dark colored tail.
This species is one of the smaller ibex species. They measure 125cm (4.1ft) long. At the shoulder they stand 61 to 76cm (2 to 2.5ft) tall. Males are significantly larger than females. An average female will weigh 26.5kg (58.4lbs) compared to 62.5kg (138lbs) for the male.
How does the Nubian Ibex survive in its habitat?
The coat of the Nubian ibex is shiny an adaptation which helps to reflect the harsh sunlight of their desert environment. The shiny coat allows them to be active during the hottest portions of the day. This coat also features waterproofing which protects them during periods of rain.
Their hooves have a range of features to help them move across the cliffs on which they live. These have large flexible pads which will grip on to the rocks and which can spread to grab onto the ground.
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What does the Nubian Ibex eat?
The Nubian ibex is a herbivore. It will feed on a range of herbaceous or woody plants, grasses and forbes. They may also browse for leaves and seed pods of selected trees. These are accessed by standing on their hind legs across the tree or even climbing a tree.
These animals may eat soil to supplement their mineral needs.
Learn more about the Nubian Ibex in this video from Nature on PBS on YouTube
Where do you find the Nubian Ibex?
The Nubian Ibex is found in areas of Northern Africa and the middle East. Here they occur in the following countries – Egypt; Israel; Jordan; Oman; Saudi Arabia; Sudan and Yemen.
They are considered to be extinct in Lebanon. While they were driven to extinction in Syria they have since been reintroduced here.
Their current status in Eritrea and Ethiopia is uncertain and will require further research. No sightings from either of these countries have been recorded over the past 20 years.
Where can the Nubian Ibex survive?
This species is found in areas of rocky desert areas. They are often seen in areas with steep slopes with their feet allowing them to scale these areas with ease.
Credit: Public Domain
How does the Nubian Ibex produce its young?
During the breeding season (October to December) the fur of the male along the neck, chest, sides and shoulders will turn to a dark brown or black color. During this time males will fight one another using their horns to push against one another.
Throughout the rut males are fully focused on breeding and may go long periods without eating.
A single infant is born after a 5 month gestation period. On rare occasions twins will be documented.
The female will give birth to her baby known as a kid away from the herd in a hidden location. It will remain here for a few days before joining the rest of the herd.
A number of females may deposit their kids in a shallow walled cliff where they are safe from predation. The young remain here with regular visits from the females to feed them. They will leave when they are able to scale the cliffs. Young can first scale cliffs from a few days old.
Young can be weaned in as little as 2 months.
Females become sexually mature by two years old while males do not reach this till between three and six years old.
Males will leave their birth group after around two years.
What does the Nubian Ibex do during its day?
These animals spend most of their time on the cliffs which will keep them away from predators. They only come to the ground to seek out food.
Much of their grazing activities are undertaken by day. At night they will return to the safety of the cliffs. In cold weather they will seek a cave to rest in.
Nubian ibex will live in herds with up to 20 members. Females and their young will form one herd while bachelor herds form with the males.
Males face less risk of predation and as such can survive in smaller herds.
This species is mostly considered non-verbal but the females occasionally make a small bleating sound and males may click. For communication they mostly rely on visual and scent based cues.
The Nubian ibex maintains a relationship with the grackle. These birds help to remove parasites from their body.
Credit: Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Predators and Threats
What stops the Nubian Ibex from surviving and thriving?
Natural predators of the ibex include leopards, wolves, striped hyenas and birds such as vultures, eagles and owls.
One method of defense against predators is to rise up and show off their impressive horns.
Numbers of the Nubian ibex are considered to be in decline though further research in to their population is required. Current estimates place the full population at less than 5,000 across their entire range.
The largest threat facing the Nubian ibex across most of its range is hunting which is unregulated across most its range. While they have been provided legal protection in some areas this is rarely enforced.
Other threats include habitat degradation and competition with domestic livestock. Livestock also contribute to a reduction in available water which they require.
Due to the reduction in population experienced by this species they are now experiencing genetic isolation. This may also cause the population to succumb to disease outbreaks in a shorter timeframe.
This species is farmed in some areas for canned hunting operations.
Some efforts have been made to repatriate the species from captive collections to their natural range with some success among these populations.
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The Nubian ibex was first described for western science in 1825. They were originally listed with the alpine ibex (Capra ibex). Following further research they were listed as their own species.
In some areas they are known as the Arabian ibex.
Ibex comes from a Latin term referring to a goat with large horns.
Credit: Public Domain
Ross, S., Elalqamy, H., Al Said, T. & Saltz, D. 2020. Capra nubiana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T3796A22143385. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T3796A22143385.en. Accessed on 07 January 2022.
Tomsen, J. 2007. “Capra nubiana” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 06, 2022 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Capra_nubiana/
Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana) Fact Sheet. c2015. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed January 06 2022]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/ nubian_ibex.
Nature. 2022. Animal Childhood ~ Desert Ibex Scales Impossibly Steep Cliff | Nature | PBS. [online] Available at: <https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/animal-childhood-desert-ibex-scales-steep-cliff/12204/> [Accessed 7 January 2022].
Brzoo.org. 2022. Nubian Ibex – Baton Rouge Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.brzoo.org/animals/meet-our-animals/nubian-ibex> [Accessed 7 January 2022].
Gainesville.tx.us. 2022. Nubian Ibex | Gainesville, TX – Official Website. [online] Available at: <https://www.gainesville.tx.us/908/Nubian-Ibex> [Accessed 7 January 2022].
Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2022. Nubian Ibex | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/nubian-ibex> [Accessed 7 January 2022].
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