WWF estimated Altai argali numbers in Russia
The international census of transboundary group of Altai argali (Ovvis ammon ammon) is implemented annually in transboundary area of Russia and Mongolia in Altai-Sayan Ecoregion by the initiative of WWF offices of both countries. Altai argali conservation is a priority of WWF. The need for international cooperation during argali census is officially approved by the members of Joint Russian-Mongolian Environmental Commission.
The experts of Russia and Mongolia apply the same approach to field survey and monitoring of Altai argali. The methodology is stated in the Programme of Monitoring of Transboundary Population of Altai argali developed by WWF Russia in 2011. The unified methodology helps making the field research accurate and the data collected measurable and comparable.
Traditionally Altai argali census takes place in autumn during mating season. Having settled down all plans, routes, dates etc several groups of Russian and Mongolian expert work simultaneously in each country and keep in touch constantly to avoid double estimation of the same groups of animals. Russian monitoring groups consist of WWF experts and the inspectors and scientists of the several protected areas of Russia. The experts do not only monitor the number of animals, they fix the cases of poaching, dead animals (either poached or killed by predators or died of natural causes), range, migration routes.
WWF has been supporting antipoaching activities, awareness raising projects and monitoring in Altai argali habitat in Russia for several years. In 2010 Sailugemsky National Park in Republic of Altai near Mongolian border was established with WWF support. The park covers 80% of Altai argali population in the country and is supposed to become a part of Silkhem-Sailugem Transboundary Protected Area.
Today Altai argali habitat in Russia lies only within the boundaries of Altai-Sayan Ecoregion, the unique ecosystem across Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China. Argali only roam the Sailugem, Chikhacheva, Tsagan-Shibetu Ridges and the Ukok Plateau. Poaching remains the main threat for Argali in Russia. The rams are poached for big horns that are a valuable trophy for hunters or for meat by the local communities. The numbers of transboundary population of Altai argali at the borders of Russia and Mongolia has been stable since 2013. WWF hopes that the population can reach its optimal size providing the poaching is effectively controlled in the area.