After weeks and months of planning for that one special moment, it was all over in a matter of seconds.
As soon as the keepers slid open the doors of the transport crates, all of which were unlocked simultaneously, a total of five Alpine ibex sprang out – including a young buck born at Hellabrunn Zoo – and immediately disappeared into the landscape of their new alpine home. The new arrivals will help strengthen the existing population of ibex living in the Stubaital valley in Tyrol. Last Tuesday, two female and three male Alpine ibex were released into their natural habitat in the Stubaier Alps as part of a reintroduction project. Among them was a young buck called Wotan, who was born at Hellabrunn Zoo last summer. Thanks to perfect weather conditions, the project was able to release Wotan, along with four other animals from Alpenzoo Innsbruck, on schedule into the beautiful alpine landscape of scree fields and meadows.
In the run-up to the release, Wotan was given a detailed health check by the vets to make sure that he was in good physical condition for life in the Alps. The actual release of the five animals into the wild by the keepers only took a few minutes – and within a short time the ibex had all disappeared into the scree fields around the gentle mountain slopes. In the coming weeks and months, the animals will adapt to their new environment and the alpine weather: at the end of summer their fur will begin to change – ibex moult in September before gaining a thicker winter coat.
The release area selected for this year was comprehensively evaluated in advance and found to be suitable. The assessment included investigating the following key factors for survival of the zoo-born ibex in the wild: food supply in summer and winter, geological condition of the environment and potential integration of the released animals into existing populations. According to estimates by local wildlife biologists, since the launch of reintroduction efforts, the number of Alpine ibex individuals has steadily increased in recent years. The latest release into the wild will contribute to this growth as the new arrivals will help strengthen and genetically refresh the existing population.
In the mid-19th century, the Alpine ibex was on the verge of extinction. The species has since been able to recover thanks to conservation and reintroduction projects. Hellabrunn Zoo’s participation in the current campaign goes back many years. In July last year, the zoo released two bucks and one doe into their natural habitat in the Gasthofgebirge mountains in Salzburger Land, Austria, while in 2021 two bucks born at Hellabrunn were released into the Oberbergtal valley in Tyrol, Austria.
"Thanks to the cooperation of all our colleagues at Hellabrunn and Alpenzoo Innsbruck in Tyrol, and the favourable weather conditions, the reintroduction went smoothly again this year. After months of planning and coordination, we are particularly pleased with the outcome. With this campaign we were once again able to make an important contribution to biodiversity conservation in local habitats and show the important role zoological institutions play in actively protecting a wide variety of animal species and preserving biodiversity," says zoo director Rasem Baban.
Verena Dietl, Chair of the Supervisory Board and Munich Mayor, adds: “The regular release of ibex into the Alps is one of the most successful projects for the reintroduction of large mammals. Thanks to the commitment to save the Alpine ibex, healthy populations are once again able to thrive throughout the Alps. We are proud that Hellabrunn Zoo was able to contribute to this positive development by releasing animals for all previous reintroduction campaigns and we hope to be able to contribute further to this project."