Polo, the legendary Venetian 13th century traveler, apparently never
saw Marco Polo sheep Ovis ammon polii alive, but he was the first who
mentioned the length of the horns he saw in the Pamirs, the longest of
any subspecies of argali sheep. That time it roamed in incredible large
herds on the green pastures at the wide mountain valleys of the Roof of
the World, the High Pamirs. Herders in absence of wood at the altitudes
beyond 4000 m a.s.l. used the huge curled horns of this wild sheep for
building corrals for their livestock – yaks, sheep and goats.
Nowadays, still herds of up to several hundred of the magnificent sheep roam in the high mountain plateaus of the Eastern Pamirs. But Tajikistan’s wildlife is under pressure and Marco Polo sheep as well as other animals already disappeared from large areas formerly inhabited.
The Tajikistan Mountain Ungulates Project has assisted local people in the development of sustainable wildlife management in conservancy areas, which are legally assigned as hunting grounds or wildlife management areas to legal entities - community-based non-governmental, non-profit organizations (NGOs) and small family-run enterprises established in the local villages. Since its start in 2008 the project has achieved incredible success in rehabiliting the populations of Tajikistan's mountain ungulates, the conservation of their ecosystems and associated other species, like snow leopard and other carnivores, and the development of benefits for the local communities. The International Council for Game and Widlife Conservation (CIC) in 2014 at the Conferene of the Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity honored the success achieved so far with its prestigious "Markhor Award".
The community-based wildlife management organizations have formed the Hunting and Conservation Alliance of Tajikistan (HCAT) for cooperation and coordination of their efforts and for assisting in marketing of tourism and sustainable hunting offers in the conservancy areas.