Calls for Swiss ban on foreign ‘trophy hunters’ shooting the country’s iconic ibex

Calls for Swiss ban on foreign ‘trophy hunters’ shooting the country’s iconic ibex

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Tens of thousands of Swiss citizens are calling for an end to “trophy ” of the country’s iconic by foreigners who pay up to £15,000 to shoot the long-horned ruminants at close range.

Some 46,000 have signed a petition in the past two week in the wake of a TV investigation showing big game hunters scaling Alpine peaks to kill the beasts as they graze.

Ibex Hunting

The Alpine ibex, a species of wild goat, was once plentiful in Europe and the remains of one individual were found inside Otzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old hunter discovered in a glacier. Hunted almost to extinction in Europe, its population has recovered to around 40,000.

While ibex enjoy total protection in neighbouring France and Italy, they can be hunted in two cantons of , Valais and , where their status is “unfavourable-inadequate” –meaning conservation is required but the numbers are not critical.

Valais has discreetly allowed foreign trophy hunters to shoot 120-odd individuals for the past 40 years, making half a million pounds a year from the lucrative “sport” and charging hefty fees for them to cart off their prized horns.

But the decades-old practice came to public attention in dramatic fashion last week when a Swiss TV report showed guides bringing trophy hunters within yards of the majestic beasts and them at close range before posing with the dead animals. Their heads were cut off and the body left on the mountainside.

Among the clients was Olivia Nalos Opre, a high-profile American huntress who has previously defended the slaying of Cecil, a lion in Zimbabwe, which sparked global outrage.In a Skype interview with RTS, Ms Opre, who travels the world felling game including lions and rhino, described her experience as “a wonderful adventure in the Alps”.

“We were guided by wildlife rangers to flush out the animals. I was able to shoot a male ibex, a big, powerful one. My friend Denise shot two, including a trophy of over a metre,” she said. She posted photos of her hunting experience on her Facebook page.

Olive Nalos Opre poses with a hunted Alpine ibex in Switzerland. CREDIT: FACEBOOK

A licence to shoot a male ibex with one-metre-long (3.3ft) horns –the biggest prize –costs 13,000 Swiss francs (more than £10,000). Ms Opre, 42, said the three-day trip cost her about £15,000. By comparison, it costs around £5,000 to fell a giraffe £23,000 to shoot a lion.

Posing as would-be clients, Swiss TV journalists contacted travel agencies selling ibex hunting packages. Some offered to go on “special hunts” to shoot French and Italian ibex –protected in those countries –that strayed over the border for those wishing to fell a “really exceptional animal”.

Prof Ulf Büntgen of the Swiss environmental research institute WSL defended controlled ibex-hunting.

“Switzerland’s strictly regulated hunting is conserving the population –in Graubünden they are very careful about which animals are harvested, and where. “It lives very high up – most visitors never see one. It’s very shy and you have to climb with a local ranger, to spot the right animal, of the right age and gender. “If you kill the wrong animal you pay a fine and get nothing, and you could lose your licence.”

But Christian Fellay of the Valais hunting federation society, said trophy hunters were taken to locations where near-tame beasts were lured via salt licks and thus sitting targets.“This has strictly nothing to do with hunting, it’s like an organised funfair gallery shoot,” he said.

“They walk for a few metres with two sticks, arrive and shoot an ibex at ten metres. It’s the antithesis of the passion of hunting. And for the past 40 years, Valais has let people with the financial means shoot (them).”Shocked by the images of ibex in their death throes, Nicole Maret, who lives in Valais, launched a petition calling for locals “to show that they are against this shameful hunting”.

Group of wild Alpine ibex in a mountain landscape near Pontresina, the Swiss Alps. CREDIT: OLAF PROTZE/GETTY IMAGES

“I was flabbergasted when I saw this on the television,” she told Le Temps. “I’ve signed petitions against animal exploitation around the world but what I was seeing was taking place on my doorstep.”Almost 40,000 people had signed the petition within three days.“These tourists can find horns to decorate their living rooms simply by walking in the mountains,” she added. “We are angry and want the state to intervene.”

In total, about 450 ibex are shot annually in Valais, and 500 in Graubünden, where 40 per cent of Switzerland’s ibex live.The director of the Valais hunting department Peter Scheibler said only old animals were shot during these safaris, “many of which would not survive the winter, anyway”.

But Jean-Michel Gaillard, research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, CNRS, said the species’ gene pool was at risk. “Ibex with long horns are the oldest. These powerful males are the ones who reproduce, not the young ones. “If too many are culled, the balance of the herds is threatened,” he told RTS.

An ibex on top of the Schonguetsch mountain, in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. CREDIT: ANTHONY ANEX/KEYSTONE

In the wake of the uproar, Jacques Melly, the state politician in charge of local hunting policy, said that since April, talks had been underway to decide if ibex trophy hunts should, in fact, be banned. A decision would likely be made within two years, he said.“But in any case, 450 ibex in Valais need to be culled each year,” to regulate numbers, he insisted.

This article was first published by on 10 November 2019.

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Jim Takahashi
Jim Takahashi

“Foreign trophy hunters”? I’m sure most of them are Americans (white, of course). Trophy hunting symbolizes the deep-rooted, crooked mentality of white AmeriKKKa : gun culture and kill-to-conquer culture. And this evil germ and many many others were born and bred in that culture (breeding ground). Yes, this is definitely a cultural issue. And, needless to say, unless the breeding ground is eradicated, there will be more and more germs coming from there.

george mira

While it’s peripheral to the specific killing of these beautiful animals who by NO means exist in overdense populations anywhere, a similar case occurs in the western USA. Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho ALL sell more than about 50% of their out-of state elk tags to California residents. While California is constantly improving its wildlife protections, other states (including Alaska) provide such murder ops to the wealthy psychopathic “trophy” and “sport” hunters who kill for the thrill, experiencing similar neurohormonal discharges as do other serial killers. Yes, culture IS behavior passed down from role models or unrestricted demonstration. But the problem… Read more »


This wonton killing of wild animals for so-called “trophies” has to stop. Let these subhumans get their adrenaline rush by some other means – go and fight in a war zone, for instance, where the targets shoot back!!

george mira

Now, Wanton means [acting in] a manner profligate, without thought or consideration, Wonton is vegetables and meat bits in pressed small wheat squares, fried in oil, usually in a wok.
Seriousness is too easily replaced with hostile humour when solecisms occur. Sincerity and consideration suffer loss when we speak or write in such a way, and good intentions are replaced with derision.

It is IMPORTANT to develop good language skills in order to avoid such an outcome, when one cares.

Janet Kenedy


Karen Lyons Kalmenson

If you want to hunt build a time machine and go back to the Stone Age

Arlene Steinberg
Arlene Steinberg

The problem is, Stone Age hunters actually DID kill only for subsistence, not for pleasure. It is modern man who has removed hunting from being a necessity for survival and turned it into a money-making sport and perverted hobby.