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Hunters of rare Swiss ibex stir Alps wildlife row

Alpine Ibex of Italy, file picture, December 4 18

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Alpine ibex is almost endangered. Luckily hundreds survived in Italy.

The alpine ibex's long, bent horns and high altitude love make it a symbol of the Alps and a very precious trophy for hunters.

Centuries of intensive hunting have reduced the number of alpine ibex to hundreds in an area in northern Italy.

But through the controlled reintroduction of the ibex in Italy in the late 20th century, the numbers recovered, especially in Switzerland, were restored.

Arguably, trophy hunters can now shoot ibex back in one Swiss region.

The Swiss ibex lives mainly in the high mountains of two southern provinces, such as Valle and Graubünden.

Valle (also known as Wallace) now includes foreigners in the strict quota of ibex hunting licenses. But Graubünden (Grisons) can only hunt ibex, locals.

The European Environment Agency classifies the ibex's status in the region as "inadequate". That is, the numbers are not important, but they require significant long-term preservation.

Swiss public broadcaster RTS reported that foreign trophy hunters were attracted to ballet. The license to shoot a male ibex with a 1 meter long (3.3 foot) horn is 13,000 Swiss francs (£ 10,170; $ 13,113).

RTS interviewed Olivia Nalos Opre, a large American game hunter who showed off her prize in a pair of long ibex horns, the ballet "Safari". The three-day trip costs about SFr 20,000.

The former Nebraska sheep shot his big and powerful male ibex, and his friend Denise "took two shots, including more than one meter of trophies."

Valles issues 120 one-day licenses each year to shoot ibex, a project that brings SFr 650,000 (£ 9,000,000; $ 655,000) to the local budget.

It is estimated that more than 40,000 ibexs are roaming in the Alps today, typically more than 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Switzerland has a population of about 16,000 people.

  • Watch: Dear Devils Alpine Ibex Ignore Gravity

About 450 ibexes are photographed each year in Balearia and 500 in Grau den den, where 40{7be40b84a6a43fc4fae13304fce9a2695859798abfc41afd127b9f8b21c5f9c5} of ibex lives in Switzerland.

However, hunting neighboring Ibex is forbidden in neighboring Italy and France.

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Gran Paradiso, Italy: Alpine Ibex

Jonas Schmid, a spokesman for the conservation group WWF Switzerland, accused Valles' hunting of the trophy for questioning legitimacy. "The protection of the species cannot be regarded as a claim to support trophy hunting in Switzerland," the BBC said.

Conservative party seeks referendum

Schmidt said, according to Valle's case, "Political parties should not be given more control over the hunting system."

WWF and other conservationists who oppose the amendment to the Swiss Hunting Law are collecting signatures to vote on the issue.

Alpine ibex, a kind of wild goat, is iconic in the Alps. Investigating the stomach contents of Iceman Oechi, a 5,300-year-old hunter found in the glacier, the Ibex was part of his diet.

Thanks to the conservation efforts of Gran Paradiso National Park and Aosta Valley in Italy, the Alpine ibex survived after centuries of hunting.

Learn more about related topics.

Ulf Büntgen, professor at the Swiss Environmental Institute WSL, defended a controlled ibex hunting in a BBC interview.

"Switzerland's strictly regulated hunting is preserving its population. In Graubünden we are very careful about what animals are harvested from where.

"Trophy hunting is totally different-it's very expensive and the main goal is to get the most impressive trophy," he said.

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French Kauretz: Since July 2014, nearly 200 Spanish ibex have been transplanted to the French Pyrenees.

According to the WSL study, Graubünden's well-controlled ibex hunting did not have a negative impact on the ibex population.

Ibex to challenge the hunter

Hunters like to shoot animals with long horns. Mature and strong men are best mated with females. However, researchers who studied the horn size of more than 8,000 ibex shots between 1978 and 2013 concluded that hunting was "sustainable" because the average weight remained stable.

Equally ambiguous, Chamois is hunting in Switzerland, but Professor Büntgen said the Ibex poses a unique challenge.

"Very high life-most visitors never see it. They are very shy and have to climb up with a local ranger to find the right age and gender for the animal.

"If you kill the wrong animal, you can be fined, get nothing and lose your license."

He says that in Graubünden you can't shoot a male unless you shoot a woman first, and the hunting period lasts only 2-3 weeks.

In France, the ibex became hunters extinct not only in the Alps, but also in the Pyrenees.

They are currently protected by French law and are trying to increase their numbers by importing dozens of the Spanish Pyrenees.

Spain allows controlled hunting of Iberian ibex, but the population is considered healthy anyway-there are thousands.

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