Just as tourists are enjoying the monsoon-showered Salalah, the different fauna and flora that calls Oman’s Garden City home are also benefitting from the lush greenery popping up all over the wide expanse of the governorate.
With camels travelling en masse to forage the rich, luxurious gift of the season, the different, usually-fog covered mountains of Dhofar also reveals some of its seldom-seen inhabitants.
The Nubian ibex, along with dozens of other protected species, inhabits the Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve in Dhofar. Wild animals are thriving in Oman’s protected mountains primarily because of the lack of human settlement, the difficult terrain, the abundance of vegetation cover and water sources such as water springs and rainwater ponds.
Mostly found in the remote corners of Jabal Samhan, Nubian ibex, however, can sometimes be spotted near settlements especially during khareef as they forage for food. They also frequent in some wadis of the western region of the governorate.
Some scholars believe that the Nubian ibex is just a breed of the European alpine ibex, while others classify it as an independent species. This ibex has a long history in human civilization and Arab civilization in particular, as it appears in the traces of civilizations and their heritage in the Fertile Crescent and the Arabian Peninsula.
The Nubian ibex’s names vary according to the region and dialect, although all sources mention it with the term “ibex”.
Suhail al Mashikhi, a specialist in nature reserves at the Environment Agency, explained that as a species, the Nubian ibex prefers to live in places that are far from human settlement, especially in the depth of the Samhan Nature Reserve, which has the largest concentrations of Nubian ibex.
Herds of Nubian ibex may migrate to the southern slope of Samhan Mountain overlooking the wadis of Sadah and Mirbat, especially during rainy times when grazing is abundant in these areas, as well as during the winter season in search of warmth due to the dry northern winds.
Having studied their foraging and grazing cycle, Suhail said that the presence of the Nubian ibex had been reposted in some places including the Wilayat of Sadah, which is inhabited seasonally, such as the Jashim and Nusairah mountains in the Hadbeen region, and the Janjari mountain west of Sadah, in addition to the peaks of Wadi Shalioun.
Al Mashikhi said, “The Nubian ibex lives in herds led by an alpha male and walks long distances in the high mountainous areas. They however, are fond of their watering holes and they usually hang around these water sources for replinishement. Whenever they are in these locations, there are often exposed to high risk of poaching and predation.”
He shared, “These groups are usually active during the early morning and evening periods to avoid exposure to the hot sun and usually spread in the form of small gatherings or scattered flocks ranging from 10 to 20. Males have large and thick horns as well as the presence of a tuft of hair under the chin in the form of a long dark beard, and the front legs contain black or sometimes white stripes scattered around the leg.
Regarding the life span and method of ibex reproduction, Al Mashikhi said: “Autumn season is the mating period of the Nubian ibex and the new ibexes are born during the spring period after a gestation period that lasts for five months.”
He added, “The female Nubian ibex usually gives birth to one ibex, except in rare cases, it may give birth to twins, and the lifespan of the Nubian ibex is estimated to be an average of 30 years give or take a few more years.”
When visiting some mountainous areas of Salalah, it’s easy for some to mistake the Nubian ibex for goats. When you spot one in Jabal Samhan mountains or areas they frequent for grazing or drinking water, just make sure not to harm them and let them be on their way as they too are enjoying the temporary temperature relief and rich grassland provided by the Khareef season.