I’m starting the New Year with a new series on Mongolian wildlife. These will be short profiles with essential information and interesting links. First up is the animal which brought me to Mongolia in the first place, the argali, now one of my favorite subjects.
Species: Argali (Ovis ammon)
Weight, height and horn length: Argali are the world’s largest mountain sheep. A large ram can weigh as much as 375 lbs (65-170km). They stand from 3-4″ (90-120cm) at the shoulder. The horns can measure up to 65″ (165cm).
Conservation Status: Near-threatened (IUCN Red List)
Habitat preference: mountains or large areas of rocky outcroppings in the desert steppe, some open desert; more recently found in mountain steppe (Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve)
-There are no argali in captivity, neither zoos or reserves. The only place to see them is in their native habitats.
– While the rams do fight it out during the annual rut for mating privileges, otherwise argali don’t have set herds or harems. Who is with who can change through the day. Rams mingle freely with ewes and lambs, form bachelor groups or wander around on their own.
– In July of 2009, I was in the right place and the right time to be the first person to ever photograph an argali swimming a river…the Kherlen Gol, which flows through Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve. It was known that they do it, but since almost all the research on them is done at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu, where there are no rivers, no one had ever actually seen, much less photographed, it.