Conservation of the Laristan Wild Sheep
Conservation of the Laristan Wild Sheep

The Laristan Wild Sheep is one of the most rare wild sheep in the world.  It inhabits a harsh, hot,  arid and inhospitable region  between Laristan in Fars Province and Bandar Abbas in Hormozgan. It is also one of the smallest wild sheep, and its numbers have sharply declined in the last few decades. Until recently, there had been no study or research conducted on the numbers and distribution of Laristan sheep; therefore, PWHF at the request of (and funded by) the Persian Wildlife Foundation decided to conduct a rapid survey of the species. In the Fall and Winter of 2011, three groups of researchers were sent to its range. The first group studied wild sheep habitats from Havā Mt., located between Khonj and Alāmarvdasht, to the hills west of Bastak, eastwards to Port Khamir, and southwards to Gāvbandi hills. The second group focused on Hormod Protected Area, established in 1975 specifically for the protection of the Laristan sheep. The third group studied the habitats between Bastak and the Geno Biosphere Reserve.

As a result of the survey, estimates of Laristan sheep population range from 550 to 750. The second research group saw 159 wild sheep, and the third saw 235. According to the Department of Environment, in Hormod Protected Area, the number of wild sheep has declined by eighty percent in the last thirty years. Our researchers tried to find the reason behind this decline. They found human development, in its many facets,lay at the root of the problem. In Hormod, drought has taken its toll in recent years. Waterholes have degraded greatly and are often centers of disease transmission. Diseases, in turn, are brought in by domesticated animals, which also compete for food resources with wild sheep. Another major problem identified is economics;the Protected Area is understaffed which results in excessive Illegal hunting for both subsistence and sport, particularly among locals.

In non-protected areas, the main threat seems to be illegal hunting though mining activities are also abundant and degrade habitat. Roads, built to supply mines, also wind up serving illegal hunters with easy entry into the otherwise rugged terrain. The Department of Environment does not possess the resources to effectively manage all of its protected areas, let alone non-protected land. Keshār Mountain Protected Area, for example, has the highest number of wild sheep in Hormozgan Province, yet it is not patrolled by a single guard. This shortcoming is partly rectified  by volunteers, who help in various ways. Among other activities, volunteers patrol areas and clean and fill watering holes. Yet, they do not enjoy proper protection  or recognition from the Department of Environment. Recently, a volunteer was imprisoned for engaging in a fight between a poacher and the game guards.

PWHF has now commenced active protection of the Laristan sheep and is tackling conservation challenges, from an ecological viewpoint as well as by dealing with social and financial problems that have caused the decline of this animal. To this end, a community-based conservancy is being established, in order to funnel economic gains of conservation into the local community.

A Brief Survey of Laristan Wild Sheep

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