NEWS

The King of the Alps Returns

August 10 2018

#Animals #Conservation programs #Wildlife watching #Partner #Binoculars

The King of the Alps Returns

Not far from the home of SWAROVSKI OPTIK is the Alpenzoo Innsbruck, with the highest elevation in Europe. The zoo, set in 4 hectares, is home to around 2,000 Alpine animals from 150 species, which live in near-natural enclosures, terrariums and aquariums. No other zoo in the world has such a complete collection of wild animals from the Alpine region. Over the last few decades, the Alpenzoo has frequently been the first in the world to breed and reintroduce a number of different species. It has also made a significant contribution to species and environmental conservation.

For many years, the breeding of new generations of animals and the timely reintroduction of young animals to the wild has been an important aspect of the conservation of animals at risk of extinction. June 2018 saw another milestone in this regard – for the 20th time, the Alpenzoo Innsbruck was successful in reintroducing young ibexes to the wild.

 

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The ibex’s habitat is above the tree and snow line. To reintroduce them, the young animals were transported to their natural habitat, first via the goods cable car...

 

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...using sheer physical force and on foot...

 

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...across upland moors and rough terrain.

 

A win for nature and for science

The ibexes – or the kings of the Alps, as they are also known – are born in the zoo and raised in the herd. At the age of about one, they are old enough to be reintroduced to the wild. So that they don’t introduce any illnesses to the wild, they are first subjected to various medical checks. Some of the animals are also fitted with GPS collars. The data from these collars provides information about the distribution and movements of the populations in the wild and can also be used by scientists to better understand these animals.

2018 saw the successful reintroduction of the ibex in Zillertal in Tirol, Austria. There’s a good chance that the young animals will integrate into the existing herd and thus bring fresh blood to the gene pool.

 

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Children in the region are also helping with the reintroduction by building a wildlife funnel, so that the ibexes can find their way back into the wild.

 

From smuggled goods to a healthy population

The ibex population in Tirol has now grown to around 6,500 animals. That’s remarkable when you think that 100 years ago, there were no ibexes in Tirol. At the beginning of the 20th century, the first animals were smuggled illegally in a rucksack from Gran Paradiso in Italy, to Tirol.  Thanks to years of patient and ongoing reintroduction, it is now possible to see ibexes living wild in the Tyrolean mountains again. If you know where to look in the Zillertal Alps, around the Großglockner or the Nordkette near Innsbruck you are very likely to see the kings of the Alps.

 

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Ibexes are very adept mountain climbers and can even navigate rock faces.

 

Experience the moment and capture it in a picture

These animals like peace and quiet and are extremely nimble mountain climbers. If you get too close to them, they’ll soon disappear around the next rock. But if you keep a safe distance, the ibexes don’t feel threatened and won’t run away. The best way to observe these proud animals is therefore from a safe distance with a pair of binoculars.

 

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Using binoculars, an iPhone adapter and a cell phone, you can create great photos and share them instantly, too.

 

It’s already been ensured that the successful reintroduction program can continue next year. At the Alpenzoo Innsbruck, seven ibexes have been born this spring.

 

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In the first 12 months of their life, there’s lots for the young ibexes to learn.

 

The partnership between the Alpenzoo Innsbruck and SWAROVSKI OPTIK is now over 20 years old and includes the hire of binoculars to visitors at the ticket office, to help them get an even closer look at the animals in the zoo.

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