Originally hailing from the plateaus of Ethiopia and Asia, weighing in at around 100 kg, these surefooted beasts have become well adapted to their mountainous environment and appear to defy gravity whilst traversing the steepest slopes of the mountainside in search of shrubs, acacia trees and roots to eat. Living high up in the peaks of Sinai, they commute down from the cool of the mountaintops in single file twice a day, early morning and late afternoon, avoiding the midday sun. Their colouring makes them almost invisible against the rock face, so looking for a movement or listening for the sound of falling stones is the only way to find them. Once they become stationary, their camouflaged coat makes them impossible to detect. They are very sensitive to sound and movement, and once frightened can run up and over seemingly impossible vertical terrain at breakneck speed.
A few senile old grandfather goats lead a solitary life, and occasionally the odd female will temporarily stray away from her herd whilst caring for her young, but normally they live in reduced herds of 10 or so. The male leader is slightly bigger than the others, keeping watch whilst his minions feed and, like the captain of the ship, is the last to go up.
The males have huge ridged and backswept horns, which can grow over a metre long, though theyre rather becomingly short and slender on the females. Nowadays, these horns are their biggest problem. As with monkey hands and elephant tusks, the animal is now killed for this one small part of its anatomy as a trophy. After all, who wouldnt cherish art mort wall decoration and horn-handled knives. Twas not always so, however. Before the days of souvenir hunting with high velocity rifles, the Bedouin relied on the meat of the Ibex as part of their diet. They were caught because of their methodical habit of travelling in single file along a path, using a method of trapping known as the desert kite. During the night the hunters would dig a deep pit in the path, which in itself is not an easy feat on a rocky mountainside, and build a small wall in front of it. Then theyd lay in wait until the Ibex took their morning constitutional down the mountain and chase them in a kite shaped formation from above, behind and below, along the path, over the wall and hey presto into the pit. A slightly primitive technique admittedly, but it worked.
Thanks to Messrs Smith & Wesson, this technique has evolved over recent years into a method known as desert slaughter. This involves lying in wait behind a rock near the only watering hole for miles, then popping up and blasting them in the face with a .303 rifle. This may also sound like pretty primitive behaviour to some, even accepting the quaint hunters tradition which entitles the victim to take a drink first so that it wont be thirsty when its heads blown off. A true case of humanitarianism personified.
Meanwhile, over in the Eastern desert, one of Egypts first wildlife refuges was established solely to protect the Nubian Ibex from extinction by over zealous hunters. Unfortunately, such protection was not afforded the Ibex in Sinai until relatively recently, and today they are a rare sight indeed. Only last year, a fishing net to trap Ibex was found hanging up around a watering hole in the desert near Nabq. Upon interrogation, the owner of said net explained that it was only being used for fishing and definitely not for trapping. The fact that there were no fish, or even sea, for miles, was apparently not an issue.
I rest my case, mlud. The case, that is, of the disappearing Ibex.