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The Tibetan Ibex is a large bovid that inhabits the deserts of the Tibetan Plateau. Often mistaken for the often-poached Tibetan Antelope, the ibex has nearly been hunted to extinction and is currently critically endangered with approximately 2,000 individuals left in the wild.

Description

The Tibetan Ibex is relatively large ibex due to the need for increased lung capacity needed for survival at the extreme altitudes of Tibet. With a shoulder height of roughly 150 cm, the males and females do not differ very much in size. However, the two can easily be distinguished by the lack of horns in the females. The males have long curved horns that grow to be an average of 10 cm at the base and can be up to 90 cm long. The fur of the Tibetan ibex is coarse with a softer undercoat, but is not nearly as soft as the Tibetan antelope that the ibex often is mistaken for.

Distribution and Habitat

Native to the Tibetan Plateau, the Tibetan ibex is acclimated to harsh cold and dry weather. While they are native to China, where they inhabit Tibet and southern Xinjiang, a number have been found in alpine Europe in cold, mountainous areas, where they were once exotic pets for colonizers of the early 19th century. The ibex typically migrates to warmer climates for gestation but they return to the Tibetan steppe afterwards.

Conservation

The Tibetan ibex is listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union due to being mistaken for the Tibetan Antelope, which is frequently poached for its soft pelt. In the late 18th century, numbers soared to more than 500,000 but as the antelope was hunted for its fur, the ibex’s numbers dropped in tandem and eventually dropped further than the antelope’s numbers because of its less evasive behaviors. The Chinese government has taken little action to protect the ibex from extinction. 

 Justin L. 2-10-15