Transboundary Argali sheep population remains stable
Before conducting the census, experts were afraid that the number of argali might have dramatically decreased due to the heavy snow and severe winter last season. However, the survey results proved that the number of Russian-Mongolian transboundary population of argali remains stable. Mountain sheep managed to migrate down the slopes with less snow.
These are the results of the international survey of argali mountain sheep conducted this autumn with WWF-Russia and WWF-Mongolia support along the rugged ridges of the Russia-Mongolia border. In Russia this area is the main argali habitat. The russian team was conducted the survey simultaneously with the Mongolian team each within their countries’ border.
The total number of Russian-Mongolian argali population is 3898-3899 animals. In Russia, researchers identified 1,198-1,199 argali. The Republic of Altai has 1,168 animals: 838 argali in Sailugemsky National Park (a protected area established with WWF support in 2010) and 330 argali in Chikhacheva Ridge. There are 30 identified animals in the neighboring Republic of Tyva. Both countries are using methodology described in the programme of argali conservation in transboundary zones developed with WWF support in 2011.
“This winter in the Altai was extreme - snowy and cold, it's hardest to survive the young wild ungulates in such winters. We are very content with the increasing number of argali in Chikhacheva Ridge in Republic of Altai from 249 argali in 2010 up to 361 in 2016” says Alexander Karnaukhov, WWF Altai-Sayan Programme Coordinator.
“Now fighting poaching is the most important challenge. It is the main threat for Altai mountain sheep. For both Altai and Tyva it is crucial to have intergovernmental patrol raids to unite the forces and capacities of many organizations”.
Researchers also collected information on poaching cases. They came across the carcass of an argali in Altai and in Tyva, the remains of which were obviously were left by illegal hunters. Unfortunately the poaching with the participation of local residents and visiting illegal hunters remains a real threat to the population of a rare sheep. This is confirmed by the data of the Sailyugem National Park. Members of the expedition also discovered on the Chikhachev ridge traces of illegal catch of the Red Book argali. In the stow Kochkorlu inspectors found the remains of a young male argali (head, skin), which was caught this fall by poachers. The specialists have received the data that were conducted «black safaris» on argali using snowmobiles this winter in the Kosh-Agach region of the Altai Republic.
WWF experts claim that fighting poaching is the major task for WWF. Other targets include expanding the territory of protected areas and control over infrastructure projects such as roads, piplelines or border fences that might defrafment argali habitat and prevent free migration.
Altai mountain sheep are listed in the International Red Data Book. Argali conservation is the priority of the WWF in Russia. The foundation supports surveys, antipoching activities and increasing awareness.