The Cook Islands, a sovereign state in free association with New Zealand, uses two official legal tender currencies. The New Zealand Dollar circulates in parallel with the local Cook Islands Dollar; at the same time, the government also authorises many legal tender coins in the Cook Islands Dollar currency for collector's purposes.
Collector coins are dedicated to historical or general popular culture themes not related to the country itself. Many of them are in standard bullion sizes, but the silver Fifty Dollars listed below are not; their weight is more than a half ounce but less than one ounce, and also less than that of a British Crown, even though the diameter is the same as the latter (hence, the coins are thinner).
This coin was issued as part of a Royal Mint twelve-coin set featuring Endangered Wildlife, and is dedicated to the Alpine Ibex.
The Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), also known as the steinbock, bouquetin, or simply ibex, is a species of wild goat that lives in the mountains of the European Alps. It is a sexually dimorphic species with larger males that carry larger, curved horns. Their coat colour is typically brownish grey. Alpine ibex tend to live in steep, rough terrain near the snow line. They are also social, although adult males and females segregate for most of the year, coming together only to mate. Four distinct groups exist; adult male groups, female-offspring groups, groups of young individuals, and mixed-sex groups.
During the breeding season, males fight for access to females, and use their long horns in agonistic behaviour. After being extirpated from most areas by the 19th century, the Alpine ibex was successfully reintroduced to parts of its historical range. All individuals living today descend from the stock in Gran Paradiso National Park in Aosta Valley and Piemonte (Italy), a national park created to help the ibex thrive. The ibex is the emblem of both the Gran Paradiso National Park, and the contiguous Vanoise National Park across the French border. The species is currently listed as of least concern by the IUCN, but went through a population bottleneck of less than 100 individuals during its near-extinction event. This has led to very low genetic diversity across populations.