The bandy played in the highlands to call for Altai mountain sheep conservation
“Argali bandy”, the bandy tournament to call for Altai mountain sheep conservation took place in Kosh-Agach village at 2000 metres above the sea level at the border of Russia and Mongolia on December, 22-23. The hockey players from all villages located in Argali habitats and key hockey schools of the region competed for two days as the winter Siberian temperatures went down to -30 degrees Centigrade.
Argali bandy (c) Sailugemsky National Park
The idea to raise awareness among the local people on species conservation through sports events came up to Altai-Sayan programme of WWF Russia and Sailugemsky National Park in 2018. The bandy competition was chosen because it is one of the most popular kind of sports among the local people who live in Altai argali habitat. The bandy tournament always involves local dwellers of Kosh-Agach District of the Republic of Altai.
The opening ceremony of bandy was attended by three “rare species” the snow leopard, Altai mountain sheep and the Pallas's cat . The actors wearing the costumes skated around the ice rink calling for Altai argali conservation and awarded the winner of the contest on the best slogan. The slogan was “Do not shoot Argali, Bandy is the best game!” (the slogan actually sounds much better in Russian).
Altai argali transboundary census in 2017
Altai mountain sheep is listed as near threatened species and the regional assessment (IUCN, 2006) as endangered species. Hunting Argali in Russia is strictly forbidden. Along with the snow leopard the Argali is the flagship species the conservation of which is the key goal for WWF Russia in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion. In Russia Argali inhabit the area at the border of Russia and Mongolia (mostly in the Republic of Altai) that is why the partnership of both countries is crucial for the species conservation.
According to the latest census the transboundary group of Altai mountain sheep consists of 4,675 animals (1295 registered in Russia and 3380 in Mongolia). In 2018 Russia and Mongolia officially approved the Monitoring Program for Altai argali in transboundary zone. Thanks to enforcing of the antipoaching activities with support from WWF Russia the case of poaching was discovered in 2017. For the first time in several years the poachers were caught and fined.