Hunters saved the Alpine ibex from extinction
If it hadn’t been for the conservation efforts of a trophy hunting king of Sardinia the Alpine ibex would have gone extinct more than 150 years ago….
By Jens Ulrik Høgh
By the beginning of the 19th century the Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) had become almost extinct after centuries of illegal hunting. Body parts from from this powerful creature were believed to have magical properties in traditional European medicine. The demand was great, the prices were high and poachers stopped at nothing to kill every single animal they could. Around 1850 the very last remaining Alpine ibexes survived in a relatively small area surrounding Gran Paradiso mountain in north-western Italy. There were less than 60 animals left. The area belonged to the king of Sardinia Victor Emmanuel II who loved the challenge of the ibex hunt.
All other protection measures had failed miserably in 1856 when the king proclaimed that Gran Paradiso was henceforth royal hunting grounds under his protection. He organized a small army of former poachers who were all skilled hunters and mountaineers. Their job was to protect the ibex from further poaching. Luxurious hunting lodges and a system of paths were established to facilitate the hunt. Local peasants were paid to take care of the grounds and arrange the royal hunts. The survival of the ibex had suddenly become a matter of great interest to the poor local population of the area.
The conservation efforts turned out to be a great success. By the the year 1900 the ibex population reached 2,000 animals. Today there is more than 45,000 ibexes in the Alps distributed between more than 100 reintroduced local populations. Every singe Alpine Ibex in the world derives from the small population that Victor Emmanuel II saved in Gran Paradiso. He was motivated entirely by his hunting passion. Recreational hunting saved the Alpine Ibex from extinction. This is a fact.