URUMQI, April 5 (Xinhua) -- An animal researcher said here Tuesday that
they have spotted 2,200 Marco Polo sheep in the part of the Pamirs in northwest
China, which indicates that the endangered sub-species of argali sheep is
increasing on their homeland.
The discovery showed that the number of Marco Polo sheep, Ovis ammon polii, has
increased satisfactorily in China compared with the number in the 1980s, when
only about 150 Marco Polo sheep were found in Taxkorgan in the Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region, said George B. Schaller of the Wildlife Conservation
This also proved the effectiveness of the measures China has adopted to
protect the endangered species, Schaller said.
Schaller and other researchers from the WCS, the Wildlife Protection Association
and Forestry Bureau of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest
China, began surveying the number of Marco Polo sheep in the part of the
Pamirs in Xinjiang last winter and has just concluded the research recently.
The investigation was conducted in an area of 865 square kilometers, with
an elevation ranging from 3,700 to 4,700 meters, in the Tajik Autonomous County
of Taxhorgan in Kashi Prefecture and the Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture of Kizilsu
in southwestern part of Xinjiang.
Winter is the best season for observing the number of Marco Polo sheep as bucks
and ewes mate. Male and female Marco Polo sheep separate from each other, roaming
in different places during other seasons of the year, according to animal
Marco Polo sheep is timid and cautious and often run away when people are
one km from them. "It is very hard to count the number of all male and young
sheep in a herd," said Schaller.
Marco Polo sheep mainly roam in the juncture areas on the Pamirs with an
elevation of 3,000 to 5,000 meters in the region adjacent to the borders of
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and China.
The large-sized sheep has long horns, with the longest one that is so far discovered
reaching 1.9 meters and weighing 60 pounds. The pair of eye-catching horns
of male sheep often incur disasters to themselves as poachers regard it a
top honor to obtain a pair of screwy horns of Marco Polo sheep.
Currently, the number of Marco Polo sheep is no less than 40,000 in the
The sheep is named after Italian explorer Marco Polo, who discovered the
argali in Xinjiang when he arrived in China traversing the Pamirs in 1273. The
explorer's travelogue is known as the first book about China by a Westerner.
But what worries WCS experts is that poaching companies in the United States are
making preparations to launch a Marco Polo sheep hunting program to lure
tourists. Each tourist will be charged for 25,000 U.S. dollars.
Participants in the latest investigation suggested that the four countries, namely
China, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan should cooperate with each
other to protect the Marco Polo sheep and their living environment on the
Currently, Pakistan strictly prohibits poaching Marco Polo sheep and established
a 270 sq km protection zone for the endangered animal species. China has
also set up a protection zone for the animal in the Tajik Autonomous County
of Taxhorgan in Xinjiang.
"We hope an international home for the Marco Polo sheep will be established in the
juncture areas between China, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the near future
so that these highland creatures can live in peace on the Pamirs," said
Zhu Fude, head of the Wildlife Protection Department of Xinjiang Uygur
Autonomous Regional Forestry Bureau. Enditem