Dr George Schaller – Senior Conservationist for WCS – has dedicated many years to studying the wild ungulates that live in the Himalayan region. His book entitled “Mountain Monarchs: Wild Sheep and Goats of the Himalaya” details the ecology of these hardy ungulates that inhabit the vast mountainous and forested regions across Central and Southern Asia. There are four wild sheep and goat species that WCS focuses its conservation efforts on within Afghanistan – the impressive Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii), its smaller relative the urial (Ovis orientalis), Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica) and markhor (Capra falconeri). Dr Schaller visited Afghanistan in 2004 to undertake WCS’s first detailed survey of the wild ungulates in the Afghan Pamirs, searching particularly for the elusive Marco Polo sheep. Since then, Dr Schaller and WCS have worked tirelessly to develop a network of protected areas throughout the country and a transboundary national park across Pakistan, Tajikistan, China and Afghanistan that would help protect 32,000 km of habitat for the largest of wild sheep and the other “mountain monarchs” that share its home.
With an absence of data on wildlife presence from the past three decades, the suspected range of many ungulate species in Afghanistan is currently based on historic surveys or from discussions with local people. As WCS continues its survey work within Kabul, Badakhshan, the Hazarajat Plateau and the Eastern Forests, we aim to update this knowledge and data and provide guidance to the government on conserving these flagship mountain species.
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