Geographical distribution and vicissitude of argali, Ovis ammon, in China
Yuqun Yu, Mingzhou Ji, Chuguang Liu, Kechang Li, Songtao Guo
Biodiv Sci. 2008, 16 (2):
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Based on fossils evidence, argali (Ovis ammon) were formerly distributed in northeastern, northwestern, southwestern, and northern China, including areas south of the Yellow River. The species no longer exists in majority of these locations. Argali inhabited in grasslands, foothills, and mountain ranges during the Pleistocene era. Based on the distribution of rock carvings and cliff paintings, argali lived in mountainous re-gions and plateaus during the Stone Age; however, the species disappeared from northern China. In this pa-per, we primarily used field observation to investigate the distribution of argali in China, excluding Xinjiang. In the Qilian Mountains, argali were concentrate in the Danghenan and Yema’nan Ranges of the western Qil-ian Mountains. No recent surveys have been conducted in the Tolainan and Shulenan Ranges, which until the 1980s still contained a few animals. The only recent reliable sighting of argali in this region was made in the hills near Dunhuang, between the Qilian Mountains and the Mazong Mountains. In the Altun Mountains, ar-gali were observed in all the surrounding mountainous areas of in two major regions: from Sorkali to the southern Altun Mountains and from the northern Altun Mountains to the western Qilian Mountains. In Kunlun Mountains, scattered argali were found throughout most of the major plateau regions, except in the east. If any sheep survive in area along the northern slopes of the western Kunlun Mountains, they are proba-bly on the verge of extirpation. Argali occurred as dispersed populations in the Kekexili, Qiangtang, and North Xizang Ranges. The highest densities of argali survived in the eastern Kunlun Mountains near Bur-hanbuda and Bayankala. The northern slope of Himalayas supported one of the largest populations of argali in Xizang. Recent surveys found argali populations in several areas along the southern part of the Yaluzangpo River, including Langkazi, Gangba, and Yadong. Reliable sightings suggest they also live in Cuona, further east along the border with Bhutan. In Inner Mongolia, argali previously occurred throughout the mountains and foothills of the Inner Mongolia Plateau that stretches from Daqingshan in the east to Alashan and Ma-zongshan to the extreme west. At the time of our surveys, the sheep still exists in some populations in Sunitezuoqi and Siwangziqi and further north toward the border with Mongolia. In Mazongshan, surveys confirmed small populations restricted to the mountain ranges on the border with South Gobi Province, Mongolia.