In a controversial new measure, trophy hunters are now allowed to hunt ibex in the mountains of the Swiss regions of Valais and Graubünden. Valais, which issues a number of ibex hunting licenses, will also allow foreigners to participate in the hunting, while Graubünden only allows locals to hunt. A license to shoot a male ibex, with three-foot horns, costs $13,113, but as ibex trophies yield high profits, the permit costs haven’t deterred hunters. Each year, Valais awards up to 120 one-day ibex hunting licenses, which brings in around $655,000 to the region.

Ibex hunting is extremely popular, as the animal is viewed as a symbol of the Alps.

Allowing ibex hunting is controversial, however, as the species is rare and in need of conservation. There are an estimated 40,000 ibex in the Alps, and around 450 are shot each year in Valais, and 500 in Graubünden.

Professor Ulf Büntgen of the Swiss environmental research institute WSL said, “Switzerland’s strictly regulated hunting is conserving the population — in Graubünden they are very careful about which animals are harvested, and where.”

Jonas Schmid, a spokesperson for the conservation group WWF Switzerland, argued that, “Protection of species cannot be regarded as an argument to support trophy hunting in Switzerland,” and that hunting in Valais proves “that politically the cantons should not be given even more powers over the hunting system.”

The WWF and other conservation groups are collecting signatures on a petition with the aim of holding a referendum on the matter.