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Forms of the Siberian Ibex in the Republik of Tajikistan

Юрий Морозов
Горные системы Гиссаро-Алай и Памир в границах Республики Таджикистан
Гималайский козерог Среднеазиатский козерог

Distribution area of the Siberian Ibex in the Republic of Tajikistan includes two mountain systems: Pamir-Alay and Hissar-Alay (Fig. 1). Geographically they are separated by the Alay valley and the river Vakhsh with its upper tributaries – river Surhob and Kyzyl-Suu, flowing on the bottom of this valley.

Hissar-Alay mountain system comprises four big ridges. Western and middle part include Turkestan, Hissar and Zeravashan ridges with their spurs; eastern part includes Alay ridge. Pamir includes numerous large and average mountain ridges, most often characterized by longitudinal direction. The ridges of Peter the First and Zaalay mountain ridge are placed in the northern part of the Pamir mountain system, eastern border is spread up to the Kunlun Mountains, southern part is limited by the Hindu Kush ridge; the western part of Pamir is considered to be Panj River.

It should be marked, that significant geographic formations (valleys, large rivers), which can limit the movements of Ibex are absent in the area of Pamir highlands. Most rivers flow from the East to the West. Most ridges included in to the mountain system also have the same direction. Hence, from the geographical point of view, there are no prerequisites to divide the distribution range of the Ibex from the Pamir on different forms.  

However, mountain Ibex from the Hissar-Alay and from Pamir possess clear morphological differences. The study and comparison of the significant amount of field data taken during the trophy hunts and natural observations allow to conclude that mountain system of Hissar-Alay is inhabited by the Central Asian subspecies of Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica alaiana); Himalayan subspecies (Capra sibirica sakeen) inhabits Pamir Mountains.

Noted subspecies of the Siberian Ibex from the area of Republic of Tajikistan have significant morphological differences, which are better developed in adult males.

Adult males of Himalayan Ibex are characterized by the dark-brown, sometimes almost black coloration of the dorsum. The tail coloration is from dark-brown to almost white color with a small spot of light fur around the tail root. The beard is brown with length of about 10-15 cm. Old males (10 and more years) have specific sidewiskers, which connect with the beard. After 4 years of life, the individuals of this subspecies of Ibex have white spot on the back, called “saddle”, which becomes larger with the ageing of the animal and sharp contrast with the general dark coloration of the body (fig. 2). A second small light spot on the neck after eight years of life appears in some individuals of this subspecies

About 70% of males of the Himalayan Ibex have falcate shape of the horns, which are curved straight and back with a small breakup. About 20% of males have sable-shaped horns, which have more or less straight shape in the proximal and middle parts and curved to the back only on the tips. Males with spreading of the horns to the back or to the sides can be met in about 10% of cases.

Adult males of the Central Asian subspecies of Ibex are lighter, grey coloration prevails. White spot on the dorsum is developed poorly and in some cases it is almost invisible on the generally light back. The horns of the adult males of this subspecies are almost always sable-shaped with a small breakeup (fig. 3).

Some individuals with intermediate morphological features of both subspecies sometimes are met on the border of Hissaro-Alay and Pamir. These are transitional forms, as they are called. Such a phenomenon is often registered in nature and common for animals of the other species and subspecies of the hoofed animals such as Caucasian Turs.