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Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009
Baby ibex's epic struggle to live
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News


Don't look down

Amazing footage of a baby ibex's perilous escape from a fox has been captured on film by a BBC natural history cameraman.

The ibex, just a week old, is hunted by the fox along the sheer face of a cliff in the desert of Israel.

The ibex attempts to escape by running up the cliff face, before eventually reaching a section so steep that the fleet-footed fox cannot follow.

The sequence will be broadcast as part of the BBC natural history series Life.

Cameraman Jamie Macpherson filmed the remarkable behaviour taking place in a gorge in the Israeli desert.

There lives a population of Nubian Ibex (Capra ibex nubiana), a species of antelope that survives in rough, dry, mountainous terrain.

While the antelope live upon the jagged mountain slopes, they are highly dependent on plants for their food and waterholes.

That means they often have to move down to lower slopes to eat and drink. This puts them within reach of opportunistic predators.

First steps

The animals have cloven hooves that spread their load.

But apart from these specialised feet, they rely on fearlessness, agility and an exceptional sense of balance.

Adults are so agile that they can stand in the branches of trees to feed. But young ibex are particularly vulnerable as they begin to climb slopes within days of their birth.

They have to keep up with their parents, learning to negotiate the steep slopes as they go.

One kid's ability was immediately put to the test when it was ambushed by a predatory fox.

Despite having never seen a fox before, the kid quickly reacted to the peril it was in.

In the sequence, it dashed up the cliff face in a bid to escape, the fox giving chase.

Eventually the baby ibex found sanctuary within a tiny patch of cliff that was so steep, only an ibex could stand there.


Finely balanced...

It is unclear whether the Nubian ibex are a distinct species, or a sub-species of the Alpine ibex (Capra ibex).

Fewer than 10,000 are thought to remain, of which no more than 2,500 are adults, and the size of the overall population is thought to be decreasing.

The antelope live in dry areas of Egypt, east of the Nile, north-east Sudan, northern Ethiopia, west Jordan, and scattered locations in western and central Saudi Arabia.

A few also live in parts of Yemen, and in southern Oman.

In Israel, they naturally occur in three major mountainous areas in eastern and southern Israel: the Judean desert, Negev, and Elat mountains.

Other predators of the ibex include leopards and raptors, such as large eagles.

"Escape of the ibex" is broadcast within the Hunters and Hunted episode of the BBC series Life at 2100GMT on BBC One on Monday 23 November.

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