The first days of the expedition to evaluate population numbers of rare Altai mountain goat in the trans-border zone of Russia and Mongolia brought worrisome results. The specialists so far found only dead bodies, and have not seen a single live animal, as Mikhail Paltsyn, the leader of the group of experts in rare animal species protection of the “Preservation of biodiversity in the Russian part of Altai-Sayan eco-region” reported to RIA Novosti.
In his words, the expedition evaluating the population density of the mountain goat (arkhar or argali) started on June 20. The members of this expedition consist of the staff of local nature preserves and specialists responsible for protection of rare animal species.
“So far we have found only seven dead animals, and have not seen a single live one,” said Paltsyn. As he explains, the arkhars could have died because of the brutal winter, when temperatures in high mountains remained under -45 degrees centigrade and lower, as well as the thick snow cover which prevented the arkhars from migrating to other areas in search of food.
He noted that this winter could have caused decrease of the arkhar population to 30% in the border zone of Russia and Mongolia, where large groupings of these animals live.
Currently the expedition is in Tuva, then the specialists are planning to evaluate republic Altai. The expedition will take until end of July. The specialists were planning to perform the census already in the fall of 2009, but they could not get to the mountains because of the thick snow cover.
Mass deaths of mountain goats because of cold and large amounts of snowfall was documented in the early 20th century.
The total population of Altai mountain goats in the world is under five thousand individuals. About 1200 individuals live in the border zone between Russia and Mongolia.