Animal Rights

Marco Polo Sheep's Fragmented Habitat Calls for International Cooperation in the Pamir Plateau

Main image to the post Marco Polo Sheep's Fragmented Habitat Calls for International Cooperation in the Pamir Plateau

The Transboundary Quest for the Marco Polo Sheep

The survival of wild animals transcends borders, and the protection of transboundary species like the Marco Polo sheep requires international collaboration. A two-year joint research effort, led by Chinese scientists and involving researchers from Central Asian countries like Tajikistan, has ventured into the wilderness of the Pamir Plateau in search of this endangered species.

"Through joint surveys, we have found that the core habitat of the Marco Polo sheep in the Pamirs is already fragmented," said Yang Weikang, a researcher at the Sino-Tajikistan Joint Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Biological Resources. "We need to establish ecological corridors to link these habitats together, ensuring their genetic exchange, in order to protect this species, because if genetic exchange is impeded, this species will decline."

Yang, deputy director of the Conservation and Research Center for Biodiversity of Arid Land at the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team brought validated population research methods for wild animals from China to Tajikistan. Using geotagging and a decade of observational data, they have determined the global survival status, distribution, and migration routes of the Marco Polo sheep.

"The Marco Polo sheep will move according to seasonal changes in search of water and grass, and will migrate to certain locations for birthing, mainly traversing between China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan," said Yang.

The Sino-Tajikistan laboratory, a platform for biodiversity research and talent development, plays a crucial role in this collaborative effort. It conducts surveys of wild animals and plants, facilitates communication and field research among scientists from various countries, and collaborates on international projects and training programs.

"Understanding which national borders they cross during migration, when they cross, the population distribution, habitat fragmentation, and the survival crises they face all require international exchange and cooperation," Yang said.

The Marco Polo sheep, an endemic species of the Pamir Plateau, is listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List. With only around 30,000 individuals remaining, international cooperation is crucial for their survival. The laboratory has submitted a consulting report to the Tajikistan government, urging Central Asian countries to work together to protect the Marco Polo sheep, particularly by renovating border fences to facilitate their migration and genetic exchange.

This ongoing research effort highlights the importance of international collaboration in protecting transboundary species like the Marco Polo sheep. By working together, scientists from different countries can ensure the survival of these magnificent animals for generations to come.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09