Goats are known for their ability to climb, but there is a type of goat whose climbing skills go beyond human imagination.
The Alpine ibex is a species of wild goat that lives in the mountains of the European Alps. It was once only found in Italy and the French Alps, but it has now been reintroduced in Switzerland, as well as it can be found in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Slovenia.
The ibex can do what no other similar animal can- it can climb almost vertical dams!
More specifically, the Alpine ibex can be seen climbing the Cingino dam in northern Italy, especially during spring months. What is also worth mentioning, is that one can only see female goats climbing the dam along with their little ones- males are nowhere to be seen.
As you will see in the video that follows, the goats climb the vast dam, a hydroelectric power plant, which is more than 40m tall, or the height of a 12-story building!
“They’re famous for being really good climbers but that’s something else, that is really extraordinary,” says zoologist Lucy Cooke on BBC.
Naturally, the questions that arise are: why the ibex climbs the dam, why in springtime, and why it’s only females with their babies that do it.
The answers are simple. The ibex lives at the top of the mountains during winter, two to three thousand meters above sea level, where they are safe from predators. Before going up there for the winter, they have to get fat on grass, since they are herbivores, in order to survive the cold months, when there is no food available for them around.
However, since they essentially live on grass, their diet doesn’t provide them the necessary salt and minerals that are vital for their nerves and muscles to function properly. These elements are particularly important for an animal’s diet when it has recently had a baby and is feeding it- and that’s why we can only observe female goats climbing the dam.
“There’s a strong bond between mother and kid,” says the narrator in the video, “and the kid will follow her wherever she goes.”
The wall of the dam is hardened concrete, which in turn consists of ettringite at 20 percent. Ettringite is a calcium-aluminum mineral released by concrete, and by licking it, goats gain the essential elements for their diet.
But, how can they climb without falling?
So far there has been no notice of an ibex falling off the dam wall. This is because the mammals use the small protruding boulders as a foothold to lick ettringite off the wall’s surface. Climbing, of course, is not always easy. As you can see in the video, especially young goats face some difficulties at first, but that’s only until they get the hang of it and start climbing confidently. At times, it seems they’re struggling, but their soft, split hooves that can grip any surface like a pincer, help them to keep going.
These animals are truly unique and their climbing skills leave anyone watching them speechless. It is their survival instinct that drives them and this is something that we cannot but admire.
Enjoy the video with the Alpine ibex climbing the dam, a truly incredible sight.
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