Altai Argali in Transboundary Area of Russia and Mongolia, Altai-Sayan Ecoregion 
ISSN 1726-2860
(print version ISSN 1684-8438)


№20 winter-spring 2006

(Русский) В этом номере Степные паркиEcological networkСтепи под охранойEcosystem managementSteppe restorationСитуацияЗащита уязвимых видовSteppe pasturesЗаконодательствоОбъявления New books (Русский) От редакции

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Altai Argali in Transboundary Area of Russia and Mongolia, Altai-Sayan Ecoregion

Mikhail Yu. Paltsyn (ARKHAR NGO
and Gorno-Altaisk State University, Russia),
Yondon Onon (WWF Mongolian Program
Office, Mongolia),
Sukh Amgalanbaatar (Argali Wildlife
Research Center, Mongolia),
Serguei V. Spitsyn (ARKHAR NGO
and Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Biosphere
Reserve, Russia)

Altai-Sayan Ecoregion is still slightly altered by human industrial impact and only ancient traditional forms of economy exist in the major part of this vast mountain country. This is the reason for a rich plant and animal diversity on the territory with plenty of endemic species. One of such unique species is Altai argali (Ovis ammon ammon). At present the distribution of Altai Argali is confined to Mongolian Altai and Khangai with adjacent mountain ranges of Eastern Kazakhstan, Russian Altai, Tuva and Western Mongolia. Habitat disturbance and deterioration resulting from competition with domestic livestock and poaching appear to have contributed to population declines, habitat reduction and fragmentation and, in some cases, localized extirpation of Altai argali across its range. The total population of Altai argali across its range is no more than 4500-5000 animals.

In 2003-2004 in the frameworks of WWF Altai-Sayan project two research teams were formed in Russia and Mongolia. The specialists used the same methods and concurrently carried out field surveys on argali’s distribution in Russia and Mongolia along the frontiers. The research showed that 1060-1140 Altai argali inhabit transboundary zone of Russia and Mongolia. It comprises 23-24 % of the total Altai argali number, assessed in 4500-5000 individuals. 380-560 argali in the transboundary zone regularly migrate between Russian and Mongolian territories. According to our data transboundary argali populations have relatively low portion of lambs (19.5 % in average) and yearlings (no more than 8.5-9.0 % in average). These parameters show rather slow decline of transboundary argali populations.

Among natural factors affecting the argali number and distribution in Russian-Mongolian transboundary zone snow cover is one of the most important. In our opinion wolves do not strongly affect argali populations in transboundary zone. Intensive livestock grazing and poaching have much greater impact on argali transboundary populations. In comparison with the beginning of 1990th the number of livestock in Sailugem and Chikhachev areas in Mongolia doubled by 2003-2004, mainly due to the increased number of sheep and goats. Summer increase of argali number on the northern slopes of Sailugem (Russia) in the last few years may be a result of a very high livestock density on Mongolian slopes of the range. Every year poachers on the Russian side of transboundary kill about 20-25 argali. Argali poaching is also usual in Western Mongolia. A long barbed wire fence located on Mongolian territory along Russian frontier impacts negatively on Mongun-Taiga transboundary argali population.

Now seven protected areas exist in argali habitats in transboundary zone of Russia and Mongolia and they encompass about 4800 kmІ of argali transboundary range (44 % of the area), but all of them are poorly protected or not protected at all because of insufficient budgets. Altai argali is protected rather well “on paper” by regional, federal and international legislations, but in reality this subspecies has always been poorly protected in Russia and Mongolia despite prohibition for hunting, existing protected areas and placing in different Red Books and Endangered Species Lists. Urgent international actions on argali conservation in transboundary zone of Russia and Mongolia are required.

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Siberian Environmental Center
Biodiversity Conservation Center
UNDP/GEF Steppe Project in Russia
Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan
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