IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)


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Range Description

This species occurs as Urial or Arkar in Afghanistan, northwestern India (Kashmir), northeastern and southeastern Iran, southwestern Kazakhstan, Oman (where it is possibly introduced), Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Intermediate Laristan sheep occur in southern Iran, and Mouflon are found in Armenia, southern Azerbaijan, northern Iraq, western Iran, and eastern Turkey, with an isolated population in south-central Turkey.

The subspecies are distributed as follows:

Ovis orientalis isphahanica
Restricted to a very small area directly southwest of Esfahan in east-central Iran.

Ovis orientalis laristanica
This sheep is a resident of southern and southeastern Iran. The purest Laristan sheep are found in Hormod Protected Area, whereas those east of 55°E in the Khabr and Baft mountains in Kerman Province have been suggested to be hybrid populations – Kerman sheep (Ovis vignei blanforcti x Ovis gmelinii laristanica).

Ovis orientalis arkal
Found in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan where it inhabits the ravines surrounding the Ustyurt plateau and Kaplankyr, and on the Mangyshlak Peninsula where it is found in the moderately high mountains of Karatau, the precipices and ravines of Northern Aktau (all in Mangysklan and to the south to Kara-Bogaz-gol) and similar habitat in Karagie, Kaunda, Kazakhla, Kulandaga, Kazakhly-Sora and other areas. This urial also occurs on rolling hills and on gentle mountain slopes in northeast Iran. The purest form of this urial is found in Golestan, Gorkhod, Serany and Tandoreh Protected Areas (see also Armenian mouflon Ovis orientalis gmehii above). The population was estimated to be at least 20,000 animals in the mid-1970s (Valdez and DeForge, 1985), of which around 15,000 were estimated to inhabit Golestan National Park alone (Kiabi, 1978).

Ovis orientalis bocharensis
Bukhara urial occurs in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is found on the north sides of the Amu Darya and Panj rivers, where it inhabits the Kugitang and Baisuntau mountains, the Babatagh and Karatau ranges, the Vakhsh range on the east bank of the Vakhsh river, and the southwestern part of the Pamir (Luzhevsky, 1977; Sapozhnikov, 1976). The taxonomic status of the last population is uncertain; it may belong to Ladakh urial (O. o. vignei).

Ovis orientalis cycloceros
Found in Turkmenistan, where its distribution stretches south-eastwards in scattered populations from the Large (about 39°40’N and 54°30’E) and Small Balkhan mountains north of Nebit-Dagh, through the Kopet-Dagh mountains, in the mountains on the right bank of the Tejen, in an area between the Kushka and Murgab rivers, and in the ravines and rolling hills of Namansaar, Yer Oilanduz (Badkhyz) as far east as Southern Karabil (about 36°20’N and 64°30’N). Urial populations were known to occur throughout the Hindu Kush and the mountains of central Afghanistan, extending from the Zebak mountains in the north to the Seyah Koh range in the southwest. The largest concentration was in the Ajar Valley Reserve, from where animals were known to migrate into distant valleys near the Band-e Amir National Park. Its presence was established in the Zebak ranges during 1976 surveys, but it was not known how far the species ranged into Badakshan. East of Kabul, the urial was found in the Kohe Safi region of Kapisa Province (Petocz, 1973). Specimens collected from hunters show that its range extended towards the Lataband Pass area near Kabul. The sub-species was also reported from the Safed Koh range in Heart and Badghis Provinces. For Pakistan, a distribution map for this urial in the North West Frontier Province is given by Malik (1987). It shows the occurrence of the subspecies in the Districts of Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Northern Waziristan, Karak, Kohat, Orakzai, Kurram, Peshawar, Mardan, Abbottabad, and Swat. Malik (1987) described the populations as being extremely scattered and at low densities in the Districts of Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Kohat, Abbottabad and lower -Swat. Urial densities in the Tribal lands are believed to be slightly higher. It is not certain whether animals inhabiting the hills along the west bank of the Indus (Districts Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan) are Afghan or Punjab urial (Schaller and Mirza 1974). Data for animals in this area are included in this account. Urial are widely distributed up to 2,750 m on gentler slopes of the major mountain ranges in Baluchistan. According to the most recent report by Roberts (1985), these include the Chiltan hills (Districts of Quetta and Kalat), the Hinglaj ranges (District Khuzdar), the Karhan hills (District Karhan), the Mekran Coast ranges (District Gwadar), the Takatu hills (Districts of Pishin and Quetta) and the Toba Kakar range (Districts of Pishin and Zhob). On a map published by the Zoological Survey Department (no date) additional areas are indicated: Kirthar range (Districts of Dadu and Las Bela), the mountains north of Nok Kundi (District Chagae), Takht-i-Sulaiman (Districts of Zhob and South Waziristan), the western edge of the Indus at Kalabagh (District Mianwali), the Mahsud mountains (Districts of North and South Warizistan), and the Marri mountains (District Kohlu). The last four areas lie within the distribution area for the subspecies given by Schaller (1977), but were not mentioned in Roberts’ (1985) more recent report. Because of the different and partially contradictory information of the above authors, it appears that the actual knowledge on the status and distribution of Afghan urial north of 32°N is inadequate. The most recent distribution map is given in Virk (1991). In Sind, the Afghan urial occurs in the Kirthar mountains, especially in the Mari-Mangthar range (District Karachi) and in Dumbar, Kambuh and Karchat mountains (District Dadu).

Ovis orientalis gmelinii
This sheep, with a small black neck ruff is a resident of the mountain foothills and rolling steppe of northwest and southwest of Iran. In the recent past, its range extended eastward from northwestern Iran to central Alborz and Zagros. The purest Armenian sheep are found in Marakan, Kiamaky, Arasbaran, Uromiyeh lake (Kabodan Island), Angoran and Bijar. Armenian sheep also occur in Oshtorankoh and Haftad Goleh. The purported hybrid population, Alborz red sheep (Ovis gmelinii gmelinii x Ovis vignei urknl) (Valdez et al. 1978) occurs in north-central Iran in the Alborz mountains near Tehran, east to the Parvar Wildlife Reserve and south into the Kavir Desert (Siah Kuh range). The exact western, eastern and southern limits of its distribution are undetermined. In Iraq, populations occurred in the extreme northern region in the Zagros mountains and along the northeastern border with Iran. Nothing known of current distributions. In the former Soviet Union, the sheep inhabits the Transcaucasus, specifically the Zangezur (Zangezrskiy) range in Armenia and Nakhichevan, and possibly just into the extreme southwestern tip of Azerbaijan. However, most occur on the Nakhichevan side of these mountains from 40°N, 45°E to 38°30’N, 46°30’E.

Ovis orientalis vignei
In India, this urial occurs only in Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir), where it is distributed discontinuously in a narrow band along the valley-bottom, to the foothill boundary of the Indus and Shyok-Nubra rivers, and some of their major tributaries. Most urial are found along the Indus valley westward from the village of Likchey to that of Khalsi, with additional herds around the junction of the Nubra and Shyok valleys (Fox et al., 1991a; Mallon, 1983, 1991). In Pakistan, Schaller (1977) gave the major river valleys of the KunarlChitral river, Indus, Gilgit river and Shyok as the main range of Ladakh urial, and Roberts (1985) presented a similar picture. However, these distribution maps seem no longer valid, indicating instead the recent historical and not the current distribution. Ladakh urial is still widely distributed, but only in very small isolated populations. In Chitral District, it still inhabits the west (right) bank of the Kunar river, from Chitral southwards to Drosh (Anonymous, 1986). Localities on the east bank of the Kunar river, as well as from north of Chitral (Anonymous 1986; Zool. Surv. Dept., 1987) are not confirmed. Also, Malik (1987) presents a distribution map showing that it occurs on the east bank of the Kunar river, but does not mention this occurrence in the text. In Gilgit District, Hess (in press) was able to locate only one place where urial survived in 1985-86; reliable informants told him about a population of 27 animals on the right side of the lower Miatsil river (Hispar valley). Also Rasool (unpubl. data) has information about 10 to 15 urial from the main Hunza valley, which may represent animals of the same population described by Hess. There is no evidence of its presence within the whole area along the Gilgit and Indus rivers upstream from Gilgit to downstream from Chilas. Most occurrences of the taxon in northern Pakistan are from Baltistan District. Besides Schaller’s (1977) map, additional records exist for the Kharpacho hills close to Skardu, and from a reliable report for the Tormik valley and the area near Rondu (Hess, in press).

Ovis orientalis punjabiensis
The distribution area of this subspecies in Pakistan is enclosed by the Indus and the Jhelum rivers and the forest belt of the Himalayan foothills. The taxonomic status of urial living along the west bank of the Indus, adjacent to the Punjab urial’s range, is uncertain (Schaller and Mirza, 1974). Punjab urial is found in small scattered populations in the Kala Chitta and in the Salt range up to 1,500 m asl, and in the Districts of Attack, Chakwal, Jhelum, Mianwali, and Khushab. At present the 2, and perhaps only, major populations of Punjab urial inhabit the Kala Chitta hills (District Attack) and the Kala Bagh Sanctuary of the Jabbah Valley (District Mianwali). Pakistan: Salt and Kala Chitta Ranges, Punjab Province. Limited to two areas in Punjab: Kala Chitta Range:Total estimated area of Kala Chitta Range = 322 km², Current area of occupancy in Kala Chitta Range = 100 km², two subpopulations and Salt Range : Total estimated area of Salt Range = 4,334 km², Current area of occupancy in Salt Range = 1,265 km², 14 subpopulations


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© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

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