The Marco Polo sheep, Pamir mountain sheep or Pamirian argali (Ovis ammon polii) is one of the subspecies of argali. Their habitat area includes south of Kyrgyz Republic, narrow strip in the west of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of Republic of China, small and great Pamir in northeast Afghanistan and small territory in the Northern Pakistan. The main population of Marco Polo sheep’s are located in the territory of Republic of Tajikistan, at Pamir Marco Polo sheep is included to the Red Book of Tajikistan (1988, 2015) and in the International Red book MCOII as “endangered “species (VI). Since 1987, Tajikistan has been holding trophy hunting for foreign tourists on the basis of special CEP permits, based on the recommendation of the Academy of Sciences and the interdepartmental commission. The Quota for annual argali shooting according to acting legislation, that approved by the Government of the Republic, currently contains 85 heads. Tajikistan has a special responsibility for preserving this subspecies of wild sheep in the country and since 1990, large-scale surveys of this species have been conducted in the country.

The last large-scale survey of Marco polo sheep and other animal species was carried out at the end of 2009 and according to the expert assessment there were about 24597 individual. Therefore, there was a need for large scale survey that would assess the state of Marco polo sheep population and other kinds of animals, to estimate potential for their further sustainable use and to identify the necessary measures for their preservation

The Committee for Environmental Protection under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan (CEP) has initiated regular large-scale surveys of wild mammals in Pamir. The executing organization was the Association of Hunters of Tajikistan, which provided the necessary funds for its conduct. Scientists and specialists from different organizations, departments, NGOs and other hunting companies, as well as experts from international organizations took active part in survey (see the list of participants). The statistical accounting was held from 9thtill 27thJanuary 2018. After that the data was processed and entered into the database and GIS. This report briefly describes field works and give overview assessment of ungulate mammals in Pamir for further discussion with interested agencies.

Before the beginning of field works a training was conducted and the main tasks of research were identified

  1. To get initial data and to obtain reliable information on the state of Marco polo sheep population, Capricorn and other key animal species. This information should form the basis for further monitoring of populations and for developing recommendations on sustainable use of wildlife populations.
  2. Development of modern and other methods of counting the number of argali’s population and other animals, including  GIS system.
  3. To identify needs and opportunities for improving the state of wildlife population, primarily such as argali, snow leopard, Siberian ibex and others.
  4. Among other things, modern statistical survey of CEP and other environmental authorities, scientific institutes, hunting companies, local NGO and international organizations contributed for developing mutual understanding and future interaction between different stakeholders in terms of establishment of “argali museum” and Pamirian scientific center in Murgab District. The statistical survey led to creating further successfully implementation of «Wildlife» law, the Strategy for preserving snow leopard in Tajikistan and obligations under the international convention.

List of participants

The participants were scientists of the scientific institutes AS RT, employees of environmental and forestry institutions at the republican, regional and district levels, hunting specialists and huntsmen, employees of environmental NGOs and international consultants who were divided into three groups.

The Animal registration team consisted of specialist from following departments and organizations.

  1. Zaripov Farkhod — specialist of state control protection department over the wildlife CEP.
  2. Jalolov Jalolidin – leading specialist of state control department over animal protection of CEP.
  3. Bakhtaliev Sodik – chief specialist of environment protection department in GBAO
  4. Murodmamadov Siroj- specialist of environment protection department in Murgab District
  5. Chorshanbiev Navruz- specialist of environment protection department in Murgab District
  6. Kubotbekov Amridin – Head of environment protection department in Murgab District
  7. Sabzaliev Shakhtut – manager of National Park in Murgab District
  8. Talbonov Khursand – junior researcher in Zoology and parasitology institute of AS RT
  9. Amirov Zayniddin — senior researcher in Zoology and parasitology institute of AS RT
  10. Nabiev Loic- senior researcher in Zoology and parasitology institute of AS RT
  11. Kosumbekov Avzal – chief specialist of hunting department of Forestry agency under the government of RT
  12. Oshurmamadov Nuzar- specialist of MO “Pantera”
  13. Bakhriev Jura – specialist of MO “Pantera”
  14. Soibkulov Subhon – direct of LLC “Vostok”
  15. Azratkulov Rahim- director of LLC “Bai-kashka”
  16. Atabaev Makhmadali – director NGO “Burgut”
  17. Kuvvatbekov Khudopanoh – huntsman of LLC “ Bars – 2010”
  18. Uruzbekov Godzon -huntsman of NGO “ Burgut”
  19. Tukhtabekov Jonibek – huntsman of NGO “ Burgut”
  20. Matison Ura- deputy director of LLC “Badakhshan”
  21. Galiulin Mansur – huntsman of LLC “ Badakhshon”
  22. Nafasbekov Jovid – huntsman of LLC “ Badakhshan”
  23. Rajabekov Muyasar – huntsman of LLC “ Badakhshan”
  24. Kudasov Junus – huntsman of LLC “ Badakhshan”
  25. Bekmurodov Atobek – director of LLC “ Murgab”
  26. Gulbekov Tolib – huntsman of LLC “ Murgab”
  27. Kimatsho – huntsman of LLC “ Murgab”
  28. Lutfilloev Shavkat – director of LLC “ Vahan”
  29. Firogatov Firuz – huntsman of LLC “ Vahan”
  30. GUlov Farhod – director of LLC “ Nuri kuhistan”
  31. Imomkulov Amriddin – huntsman of LLC “ Nuri kuhistan”

The following specialists from international organizations were invited to statistical survey:

  1. Poyarkov Andrey – A.Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences, RF
  2. Karnauhov Alexander – WWF, senior project coordinator
  3. Raul Valdes – expert of “ Safari Club International “ Mexico

In addition, local hunting guides and drivers with good local knowledge supported the survey.
The organizers and supervisors of statistical recording were: Head of Ecology Department of terrestrial vertebrates in Zoology and Parasitology Institute , Academy of Sciences RT, Ph.D. Muratov R.Sh. and the chairman of  Tajikistan Hunters Association , Ph.D. Latifi A.O. This report was prepared by R.Sh. Muratov, and computer processed by Talbonov H.M.

Accounting/Recording Methodology

To get a full statistical data of the entire area of ​​potential habitats of Marco Polo sheep and other species of animals in the Eastern Pamir was impossible due to the difficulties of the local orography, inaccessible areas and hard meteorological conditions. Therefor the main task was to cover as much as possible argali’s habitat range at Pamir. Mountain ungulates are concentrated in the lowlands of the Pamir highland in winter and this facilitated the survey conducted and the time chosen for them. The main habitats of Pamirian argali were almost completely covered by groups that made records in planned research areas.

Each group had binoculars (10 or 15 x 42 or 50) and a telescope («Swarovski» 20 to 60 x 60), GPS and a separate compass, folders with forms and a set of topographic maps with scale of 1: 100,000. Methodology, developed in the CEP by NM Safarov (2011), was chosen for work.

Accounting was conducted both on foot and using transport. Most of observations were made during stops. Each stop during surveying of territory was recorded with the GPS device as an observation point. At least all points with animal’s observation were recorded with GPS coordinates, time and duration of animal search. The routes were either fixed directly to the GPS, drawn on maps or reconstructed in GIS using GPS points. The boundaries of surveyed areas were drawn on topographic maps based on GPS points, traffic routes, topography and maximum distance of animal visibility. The areas of the surveyed territories were identified by using GIS.

The standard forms were used to collect information (data) in the field. In form # 1 «Framework conditions», all frame conditions (terrain, time, habitat factors) were recorded, in form # 2 all data of observed group of animals were recorded (distance and direction from observer, number and sex-age composition, behavior).

The data were determined according to the following priorities

  1. The total number of animals:
    2. The first location (the direction to the given place from the point and distance according to the most experienced accountant and characteristic of topographic objects, in group IV with the help of a rangefinder);
    3. The number of males;
    4. The number of females, yearling (young in the current year) and one-year-olds (youngsters of the previous year);
    5. The number of males older than 3 years (adult = category II, III and IV) and males 2-3 years (subadult = G category);
    6. the number of males in the captured age (argali, over 7 years, capricorns over 9 years = category IV).

In case if two different groups surveyed the same places, then animals group that may have been accounted in places, size and composition could be excluded from the data analyze.  Totally, about 25,256 sq. Km of surveyed area, which was almost 84.2% area of argali’s range. (Sapozhnikov, 1976)

  • Marco Polo sheep

Marco Polo sheep were found almost in all surveyed territories of the Eastern Pamir, only in some surveyed canyons they were not found (around Alicur).

In total, about 26483 individuals of Marco Polo sheep were counted. The density of argali in surveyed areas greatly varied. The GIS analyze showed density up to 35 and in exceptional cases, up to 86 sheep of Marco Polo per km2.

The total average density in surveyed territory was 1.05 sheep of Marco Polo per km2. The highest density of argali was observed in Dzhartigumbez Region, west of Karakul lake and nearby Rangkul lake.

Only about 15% of registered sheep (3403) were not determined by gender and age. The age and gender composition of population showed the following ratio: females — 8404 (31.72%), males — 7494 (28.3%) from them 1990 (7.5%) captured. Young individuals -7163 (27.04%) and of them up to a year — 3586 individuals (Table 1).

ArgaliTotalSubadultOne year oldFemale2-3 males>3malesCapturedundetermined
Bomi Jahon2389397337833224328162270
Huri Kuhiston2231356256637231439139312

The numbers of animal’s age-gender composition considered in the table, shows  that there is  a natural reproduction of Marco Polo sheep  population at Pamir .

Generally, in comparison with 2009, the number of argali in the surveyed territory increased by 2,000. The growth rate of Marco polo sheep is slowing down over the years, which suggests that the population is approaching its optimal, stable state.

Siberian mountain ibex

Besides getting statistical data of Pamirian argali the herbs of Siberian ibex were also taken into account. Totally, 4288 individuals were recorded. These figures cannot be objective for assessing the general state of Siberian ibex in Pamir, as the biotopes of ibex and argali are not the same. However, comparing with obtained data in 2009, their number increased by 1000 heads. Table 2 gives information on its gender-age structure for current period.

IbexTotallySubadultOne year oldFemale2-3 male>3 maleCapturedIndeterminate

Recommendation:  based on the result of statistic, recommended conducting statistical activities once every five years.

Existing current annual government shooting quote for trophy hunting of pamirian argali in an amount of 85 head we recommend to keep also for the next year. With increasing or decreasing amount or argali the quote could be adjusted.

Map of surveyed territory of Pamirs

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sir.
    Can you please send me your program to hunt Marco Polo sheep and also ibex in Tajikistan?i am interested in going in 2020
    Thank you

    John williams

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