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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 17, 2020

Understanding population baselines: status of mountain ungulate populations in the Central Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Munib Khanyari ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Kubanychbek Zhumabai uulu , Suraiya Luecke , Charudutt Mishra and Kulbhushansingh Ramesh Suryawanshi
From the journal Mammalia


We assessed the density of argali (Ovis ammon) and ibex (Capra sibirica) in Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve and its neighbouring Koiluu valley. Sarychat is a protected area, while Koiluu is a human-use landscape which is a partly licenced hunting concession for mountain ungulates and has several livestock herders and their permanent residential structures. Population monitoring of mountain ungulates can help in setting measurable conservation targets such as appropriate trophy hunting quotas and to assess habitat suitability for predators like snow leopards (Panthera uncia). We employed the double-observer method to survey 573 km2 of mountain ungulate habitat inside Sarychat and 407 km2 inside Koiluu. The estimated densities of ibex and argali in Sarychat were 2.26 (95% CI 1.47–3.52) individuals km−2 and 1.54 (95% CI 1.01–2.20) individuals km−2, respectively. Total ungulate density in Sarychat was 3.80 (95% CI 2.47–5.72) individuals km−2. We did not record argali in Koiluu, whereas the density of ibex was 0.75 (95% CI 0.50–1.27) individuals km−2. While strictly protected areas can achieve high densities of mountain ungulates, multi-use areas can harbour meaningful though suppressed populations. Conservation of mountain ungulates and their predators can be enhanced by maintaining Sarychat-like “pristine” areas interspersed within a matrix of multi-use areas like Koiluu.

Corresponding author: Munib Khanyari, Nature Conservation Foundation, 1311, “Amritha”, 12th Main, Vijayanagar 1st Stage, Mysore, 570017, India; Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol, BS8 1TH, UK; and Department of Zoology, Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Sciences (ICCS), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, E-mail:

Award Identifier / Grant number: WW-067ES-17

Funding source: Ravi Shankaran Inlaks Foundation


We extend our heartfelt thanks to Mirbek, Temirbek and Askat, the three rangers that accompanied us during our surveys in Sarychat. It is their tireless effort that ensures the protection of spaces like Sarychat. We are also thankful to the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Protected Area Department of the State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry under the Government of Kyrgyzstan for providing us with the necessary permits to conduct these surveys. A special thanks to Trisha Gupta for taking her time out to comment on our work.

  1. Author contributions: KS, KZ and MK conceived the idea of the study. MK, KZ, SL, and KS conducted the field work. KS and MK conducted the data analysis and contributed to the first draft of the manuscript. CM helped develop the ideas, guided the analysis, and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. KZ and SL edited and commented on the manuscript. All authors helped in editing the draft.

  2. Research funding: This study would not have been possible without the funding provided by the National Geographic Collaboration Grant and British Ecological Society. MK was supported by the Ravi Shankaran Inlaks Foundation Grant.

  3. Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Received: 2020-01-18
Accepted: 2020-06-18
Published Online: 2020-08-17
Published in Print: 2021-01-27

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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