Walia Ibex, Capra walie

The walia ibex (Capra walie), sometimes considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine ibex, and can be found in a highly restricted range in the Semien Mountains in Ethiopia. It prefers a habitat within rocky areas, subalpine grasslands, scrubs, and mountain forests at an elevation between 8,200 and 14,800 feet. This ibex is also known as the Abyssinian ibex.

The walia ibex is typical dark brown to red brown in color, with a grey brown muzzle and lighter grey legs. The underbelly and insides of the legs are white, with black and white markings occurring on the legs. Males can reach an average weight between 80 and 280 pounds, and bear large, bowed horns that can reach a length of 43 inches.  Males also display a black beard, which is grown longer and thicker in older males. Females are smaller than males, with lighter fur colors and smaller horns.

The walia ibex lives in small groups between five to twenty individuals, with older males preferring to reside just outside of main herds. During mating season, occurring between late autumn and early spring, these males return the herds to mate. After about 165 days, one or two baby walia ibexes will be born. Young ibexes will reach sexual maturity at one year. The diet f this species consists of lichens, grasses, shrubs, creepers, and bushes.

Although this species has a restricted range, it once inhabited all of the Semien Mountains. Between the years of 1994 and 1996, the population of this species numbered only 200 to 250 individuals, but as of 2004, this number reached around 500. Its major threats include habitat loss and hunting, but it is also threatened by intruding species, habitat fragmentation, and human actions like farming. In 1969, 34,000 acres were designated as the Semien National Park, and this is the most important area in the walia ibex’s range. As of yet, there are no captive individuals to be used for conservation purposes. The walia ibex appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered”.

Image Caption: Walia Ibex (Capra walie) and Gelada Baboon (Theropithecus gelada). Semien Mountains National Park near Chennek camp. Credit: Paulo Philippidis/Wikipedia  (CC BY 2.0)