Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

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Hybridization between alpine ibex and domestic goat in the alps: a sporadic and localized phenomenon?

Abstract

The Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) is a mountain ungulate living in the European Alps. Although being currently classified as a species of Least Concern (LC) by the IUCN, a potential threat for its long-term conservation is introgression following hybridization with domestic goats (Capra hircus). Hybridization has been documented in Switzerland in captive and free ranging animals, although accurate data to assess the extent of this phenomenon in natural conditions in the Alps are lacking. Using an online survey and a network of experts, we collected and mapped unpublished evidence of hybridization events that occurred between Alpine ibex and feral domestic goats from 2000 to 2021. The results of this study showed that hybrids are distributed in most of the Alpine countries, and their presence is not a sporadic event, with some clusters including 4-20 probable hybrids. Our results illustrated the need for establishing a standardized and effective protocol to identify hybrids in the field (such as a formal description of the morphological traits characterizing hybrids), as well as clear guidelines for hybrid management. Even more importantly, this study also highlighted the need for actions aimed at avoiding hybridization, such as the effective management of domestic herds grazing in Alpine ibex core areas.