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Staffan Widstrand - Spanish Ibex and the Art of Flirting…

December 20th, 2008 Posted in Southern Europe, Uncategorized, Western Europe

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staffan_portraitIt starts with the very macho male goat peeing in his own face.
And then he approaches the Lady of his choice, an elegant little mountain goat girl, obviously in heat, since 5 horny goat males are standing all around her.
The male with his face still dripping from his own pee, takes a bold step forward, and stretches out his tongue, wiggling it up and down and to the sides! Not just once but for hours and hours. Patiently waiting for the female to realize what a swell guy he actually is.
She stares at him, seemingly in disbelief, just as would any girl in a similar situation elsewhere. It just looks completely weird.
But, and this is when I realize that humans and goats are a bit more different than you might think, after two days of continuous face-peeing and tongue-wiggling male attention, she finally gives in and lets him mount her. A human female would never have chosen such a stinking and obscene fellow, would she? After a second thought I realize that I have probably seen that happen too, and even a number of times…
Maybe we are not that different after all…


I am in the Sierra de Gredos in Spain, a wild mountain chain some 200 kms west from Madrid, graciously brought here by Mariano Cano Gordo and Joaquín González Gómez , president and vice-president of the Spanish Nature Photographers Association, AEFONA.

Not only have they been so kind to take me and my assistant Hampus Hagstedt here, but they also arranged for the in Spain all so important nature photography permits! In Spain, as soon as you will be using a camera with any kind of tripod, you are considered “professional” and hence immediately need an official permit in every nature reserve and national park. Not a general permit, but a very specific one, tied to both time and place. Which takes quite a lot of time and effort to get. And you often need to travel to the very prefecture that issues the permits, to be sure to get it.
So getting help with that part was a real relief.
Already after 30 minutes in the field, the first ranger came up to us and asked for our permits.


We have just left our hotel in the little mountain village Hoyos del Espino and arrived at the end of the road. I travelled from wintery Sweden with 0 degrees C, thinking that sunny Spain would be nice and warm. But up here it was -8C!! Freezing cold, but resulting in clear blue skies and clear air.
The Ibex, or mountain goat, the original species from which most domestic goats can count their heritage, have made an amazing comeback during the latest 20 years. From having been brought to the very verge of extinction, the ibex is now strongly coming back, now being counted in tens of thousands.
Right here, protected since over 30 years, they are completely ‘un-shy’ of people.
That helps of course, but the problem is that they climb like – mountain goats!
Often this means that they are virtually on the horizon, in the steepest areas of the mountain.


This is another example of a harmonious relation man-wildlife in Europe.
In order for a whole population of animals or birds to become un-shy, two things are needed, and this is the same all over the world:
1: People don’t harm, kill, hunt or harass wildlife, and soon the wildlife learns that humans are not that dangerous any more.
2: The wildlife needs to meet lots of people, who don’t harass, kill, hunt or harm them.
The combination of the two works everywhere.
And if the process is to be speeded up, one can always add the element of food…

That is not needed here though, and also not permitted.
We climb up and down the steeps and hillsides all day from dawn to dusk. Balancing between boulders and rocks, with tripods, 600mm lenses and other heavy equipment…ice, snow, slippery lichens and moss, clay and mud, it is a real challenge to take their pictures, even if they are not shy at all.


The ibex run on the almost vertical surfaces like if it was a walk in the park.
Their cloven hooves seem almost self-adhesive, a bit like gecko style lizard fingers, they seem to stick to the rock better than anything else.

These Iberian or Spanish ibex are quite different in appearance than the Alpine ibex.
Their horns look different, they are smaller in size and they have very elegant patterns on their bodies, designerpainted in black on beige.

Yet another definite Wild Wonder in Europe.

Staffan Widstrand

Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.

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  1. 4 Responses to “Staffan Widstrand - Spanish Ibex and the Art of Flirting…”

  2. By Bridget Wijnberg on Dec 20, 2008

    Oh Staffan!! Ha ha… thank you for this special story. I have a smile from ear to ear… Very funny. Tell us more!

  3. By Marcos G. Meider on Dec 23, 2008

    Staffan it is always very annoying to get those permits in Spain!. We have, through AEFONA, tried to build up and recommend an easy procedure for this task and also make them realise that “same rules” should be applied in the whole country, but it seems unsuccesful. Many times you are bothered with permits out in the countryside while there’s around you people making noisy picnics or even riding motorbikes… You just have to cope with it and be patient, even more than being in a hide.

    Marcos G. Meider

  4. By Hampus Hagstedt on Dec 29, 2008

    Look what happens when one googles his own name! Its funny we have quite similar images you and I, although mine with just a liittle more space around the motive. (Is that the term used even in english?) Thanks again for a fantastic journey to the Credos!

  5. By Rasmus Frid on Dec 31, 2008

    Watching and reading in awe ,doing this for a living would be a dream come true.
    (not wathching goats pee and lick themselves in the face),But beeing in the wild taking these marvelous shots.

    Good luck with whatever it is your aiming for next, and a Happy New Year

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