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photo: Shaked Buchbout
Name: Nubian ibex
Scientific Name: Capra ibex nubiana
Global Conservation Status: vulnerable VU
In Israel: least concern LC
At the Zoo: a breeding flock at the Bible Lands Preserve
In the Bible:
Yael (the Hebrew word for ibex) was the wife of Hever the Cainite and is mentioned in the book of Judges, chapter 4. She is remembered for killing General Sisera in war during the time of Deborah the prophetess and Barak, son of Avinoam.
Ibex are mentioned several times throughout the bible.
“Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats [ibex].” Samuel 1, chapter 24, verse 2
“The high mountains are for the wild goats [ibex]; the rocks are a refuge for the conies.” Psalms 104, verse 18
“Knowest thou the time when the wild goats [ibex] of the rock bring forth? Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?” Job 39, verse 1
Habitat and Distribution: desert and mountain areas in Northeast Africa and the Middle East. In Israel, the Nubian ibex is prevalent in the Negev (south), in the Judean desert, and the southern Golan Heights.
Body Structure: height can reach 65 -75 cm, and weight can reach 50 kg. The ibex is a solid and muscular animal with short legs. Its body is suited for climbing cliffs, yet not for running the plains, the way gazelles are built. The male’s horns can reach a length of over 130 cm, while the female’s horns are small and thin and can reach 30 cm in length. Because of the male’s heavy horns, its body and mainly its neck are heavy and massive. The female’s body is significantly smaller than the male.
Diet: vegetarian, eating various desert plants and leaves
Social Structure: small flocks
Activity cycle: active during the day
Threats in the wild: hunting and consuming refuse from humans
photo: zoo archive
The Nubian ibex is the only type in its family which can live in extreme desert conditions. Throughout the year, the female and its young, along with the young yet maturing males, live within the flock of 10 to 20 individuals. Interesting behavior has been observed among the flock of ibex in the Avdat Nature Park in the Negev region, where the flock’s young were gathered to a cliff with no option to leave the location. The females would periodically come to feed them. Only once the young matured were they allowed to leave this “nursery” area. This social behavior was intended to protect the young in a group against attack by leopards, wolves, and other predators. The auditor from the local nature reserve is able to approach the ibex and observe them, since they are accustomed to being near humans.
In the beginning years of the State of Israel, the Nubian ibex was widely hunted until the establishment of the Nature Conservation Authority (today called the Israel Nature and Parks Authority), which developed legislation to protect animals from hunters. The Authority even chose the ibex as its logo. Since then, the ibex have increased in number, mainly due to the disappearance of its main predator, the leopard.