Caturday felid: climbers—kitteh, ibexes, and baboons

There’s only one kitteh today, but it’s an agile one:

The photo and commentary come from Robert L. Peters:

OFF BELAY

Winnipeg, Canada

Since I quite like both cats and climbing, re-posting this image (original source unknown) was a natural… as is this bouldering kitty. Note the fine technique—moving from a layback along the long vertical arête… to an under-cling… to delicate face moves. As with most climbing, however, the answer to the question “why” remains unclear…

These aren’t kittehs, but the photos are stunning.  Also from Robert L. Peters come these photos of alpine ibex (Capra ibex), the wild goat of the Alps. Their climbing abilities are legendary.

“The ibex of Northern Italy don’t need to worry about equipment malfunctions, difficult-to-obtain life insurance, or their peers calling them foolhardy. They just do what they do, without ropes or inhibitions…” (from a link in today’s Alpine Club of Canada e-letter).

I’ve long marveled at the genetically hard-wired abilities of sheep and goats when it comes to rock climbing (and I’ve posted on this before, e.g. hereand here). Don’t underestimate the sure-footedness, balance, and sheer gumption of the mystical Ibex either (stambecco in Italian, Steinbock in German). These pictures speak for themselves (yes, the tiny specs in the lower photo are what you think)…


According to Rural Ramblings, which has additional photos, these animals are browsing on moss and lichen on the face of the Cingino dam in Italy, and licking salt off the wall:

The Alpine Ibex was long regarded as a mystical animal and almost all of body parts were sought after as ingredients for magical potions and to cure various illnesses. As a result, they were almost extinct because of very extensive hunting. However, in the 1850s King Emmanuel II of Italy created a game preserve in the Italian Alps for the Ibex. Today, about 4,000 Alpine Ibex roam the area of the king’s preserve, now the Gran Paradiso National Park.

n.b. to skeptics: These pictures are not Photoshopped. Here’s a movie of the ibexes browsing on the dam:

_____

And thanks to Billy, who in the comments below added this amazing video of rock-climbing baboons:

18 Comments

  1. Neill Raper
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdsZz8StyV4

    Another cool ibex video…

  2. Bill
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    It’s odd how that image of the ibex has become an internet meme – I have had it forwarded to me five times – twice saying they are ibex at the Cingino dam, and three times claiming them to be big horn sheep at 2 or three different dams in the US

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted November 20, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Yes, but the reason it’s an internet meme is a good evolutionary one—-it shows how damn adapted these things are to their habitat!

      • sasqwatch
        Posted November 20, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        ARGH!

  3. Barry
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    So – how many poor little sheep, goats, and Ibex do you think had to fall and die over the millennia in order to reach this level of adaptation?

    • Eddie Janssen
      Posted November 20, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      I don’t think the “first one” started at such a high cliff.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 20, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        BAH-DUMM! (*And* a good answer!)

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted November 20, 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink

          Yeah, but ten to one hapless goats still occasionally take a header!

          • daveau
            Posted November 20, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            Before they pass on their genes?

  4. Tyro
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I asked rangers in the Canadian Rockies about the agility of mountain goats and the bighorn sheep and they said that yes, they really do climb to some amazing places but yes, falling off these amazing places kills a large number of them each year. It really is as risky and dangerous as it looks.

  5. daveau
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Holy crap! And I bet Ibexes don’t have 9 lives like kittehs do.

  6. Posted November 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I am intrigued with the ability of goats (not sheep so much) and ibex, in particular, to scour the facings of dams – cement, salt et al notwithstanding.

    Why was the still photograph depicting a group of calcium grazing ibex but the video only followed the one on the right.

    Impressive foot work, I must say. I have never been able to achieve the second position in ballet with the insouciance displayed by these ibex.

    They have my appreciation!!

  7. Diane G.
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Truly awesome.

    I suspect it helps a bit to not have the human capacity to look down & imagine your guts splattered all over in living color.

    I wonder if the goats & ibexes look down much at all? Or if most of their looks are mainly to the next hoof-hold…

  8. Dominic
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Spare a thought for the late Pyranean Ibex extinct only a decade ago. We humans really are the pits…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrenean_Ibex

    • Dominic
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 4:16 am | Permalink

      Sorry – Pyrenean! typo… 🙁

  9. Posted November 21, 2010 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Have you seen the rock climbing baboons? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42Px9N7jV7w

  10. Posted November 21, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    While not quite as impressive a feat as the dam is for the ibex, Bob Hallinen captured a photo of two Dall Sheep rams fighting on the cliffs above Turnagain Arm last Tuesday. It is in today’s Anchorage Daily News online: http://www.adn.com/2010/11/19/1563417/dall-sheep-turnagain-arm.html

  11. Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    In Europe there’s another master climber, the chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra or R. pyrenaica in Spain). They are, according to most nature lover, much better than the ibex. Quicker, more agile and lighter, they are a joy to watch when they climb or run effortlessly up or down a vertical slope, or wall. Search for them on YT.


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