A rare herd of argali sheep was recently caught on camera on the Pamirs Plateau in Bulunkou Township, Akto County in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
'Argali' is the Mongolian word for wild sheep. The mountain sheep is under the second-class state protection in China and listed as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN Red List.
Catching a glimpse of these elusive creatures is no easy task, which makes the new aerial footage of the herd all the more precious.
The argali sheep is always vigilant. Once they sense danger, they immediately take flight, sprinting, making sharp turns, breaking from the herd and running in different directions. Some will take high ground for observation and signal the pack. The argali can also climb steep hills with ease.
"We conducted a survey of argali sheep in 1997, and we couldn't spot any herd at the time," said Maihemuti Saimaiti, deputy director of the forest police station of the Akto County Public Security Bureau.
In 1984, China established the Taxkorgan Nature Reserve on the Pamirs Plateau, covering an area of 1.5 million hectares and at an average altitude of 3,000 meters. With the continuous enhancement of local ecological protection in recent years, the coverage of forest and grassland vegetation has been gradually expanded.
A number of rare wild animals, including argali and snow leopard, have come back into sight, as their habitats significantly improve.
According to an official survey, the number of argali living in the Taxkorgan Nature Reserve has reached 1,000, a record high for the argali population monitored in two decades.