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Do Marco Polo argali Ovis ammon polii persist in Pakistan?

  • Hussain Ali (a1), Muhammad Younus (a2), Jaffar Ud Din (a2), Richard Bischof (a3) and Muhammad Ali Nawaz (a1)...

The distribution range of the Near Threatened Marco Polo argali, or Marco Polo sheep, Ovis ammon polii is restricted to the Pamir Mountains, spanning Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan. Until the early 1970s the Marco Polo argali was abundant in northern areas of Pakistan, particularly in the Khunjerab and Misgar Valleys around the Pamir Knot, bordering China, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. In Pakistan the subspecies now occurs only in one small watershed, in Khunjerab National Park, bordering China, which it visits sporadically during summer. We used map-based questionnaire surveys, double-observer surveys and camera trapping in a search for Marco Polo argali in the Pakistani Pamirs. We observed a herd of 19 individuals in Karachanai Nallah, in Khunjerab National Park, in 2012. The population that was formerly present in the Misgar Valley appears to have been extirpated, presumably as a result of anthropogenic factors such as poaching, competition with livestock, habitat disturbance, and the construction of a fence along the international border with China. Transboundary migration and range expansion into Pakistan could be facilitated by removal of the border fence adjacent to the Kilik–Mintika area and by limiting livestock grazing in former lambing areas.

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