Ibex is now viable in the Pyrenees thanks to a reintroduction program

The doors of the cages, which arrived from Spain by truck during the night, open onto their new kingdom. Nine large wooden boxes six males and three females emerge, one of which is accompanied by her kid. Capra pyrenaica, the Iberian ibex, not to be confused with its Alpine cousin, once again tramples on Pyrenean soil. On this early autumn morning, the agents of the Pyrenees National Park, under the eyes of a few enthusiasts and inhabitants of the valley, proceed to the twenty-ninth release in six years of the small placid animal – 90 cm at the withers for a length of 140 cm for the male -, with short, brown hair, lyre-shaped horns, skillful hooves that love verticality.

Above them rise the cliffs they love, in the town of Accous, the gateway to the Aspe valley in Béarn, which winds up to the Somport pass on the Spanish border. That is 200,000 hectares of peaks and passes, the highest of which culminates at 2,640 meters, 2,500 inhabitants, wooded slopes, humid and green valleys. A haven of biodiversity where raptors, vultures and bearded vultures soar. Where the chamois frolic and hibernate a few bears, including Sorita and Claverina, hoisted not far from there in the fall of 2018.

Alexandre Garnier, veterinarian and project manager for the park as part of his doctorate, says: “With each release, it’s the same ritual. We wait for the truck in the early morning, we put the GPS collar on them and we observe their attitude at the exit of the cages. “ Today, some extricate themselves slowly. Quarantined for ten days, to test for brucellosis, their hindquarters were numb.

Release of Pyrenean ibex, in Accous (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), September 18.

“Important business with its hunting”

Thanks to the reintroduction program, envisaged since the 1980s but effective only in 2014, the population would today be viable throughout the massif, with nearly 400 individuals. The last release of the season took place on Friday October 16. But the pitfalls were many.

Disappeared from the French Pyrenees since the beginning of the XXe century, hunted in particular for its horns, a highly prized trophy which can reach a meter and a value of 30,000 euros, the herbivore had found refuge in Spain. Pampered and having more space in various parks across the country, it is also profitable. “Municipalities do an important business with its hunting, it is at the center of an economy, there are around 70,000 of them among our Spanish neighbors”, specifies Eric Sourp, in charge of the reintroduction project in the Pyrenees National Park since 2008. In the French Pyrenees, he does not have to fear hunters, being a protected species.

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