The Laristan Wild Sheep is one of the rarest kinds of wild sheep in the world, living only in Laristan, Fars Province, to Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan. It is also one of the smallest wild sheep and its numbers have sharply declined in the recent decades. There has so far been no study conducted on the numbers and distribution of Laristan sheep, hence PWHF decided to conduct a rapid survey of the species. Three groups of researchers were sent in Fall and Winter 2011 to its range. The first group studied wild sheep habitat from Havā Mt. located between Khonj and Alāmarvdasht to the hills west of Bastak and 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 Laristan sheep. The third group studied the habitats between Bastak and Geno Protected Area.
Estimates of Laristan sheep range from 550 to 750 individuals. The second research group saw 159 and the third 235 individual wild sheep. 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 that human development in its many facets at the root of the problem. In Hormod drought has taken its toll in the 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 here is financial, with the Protected Area being understaffed. Illegal hunting for both subsistence and sport is usual among locals.
In non-protected areas the main threat seems to be illegal hunting. This is while mining activities are abound and degrade habitat. Roads built to supply mines serve illegal hunters to easily pass into otherwise rugged terrain. The Department of Environment does not possess the resources to effectively manage all its protected areas, let alone non-protected land. Keshār Mountain Protected Area for example has the highest number of wild sheep of Hormozgan Province, yet does not even have a single guard. This lack is partly covered for by volunteers, who help in various ways. Among other activies, volunteers patrol areas and clean and fill watering holes. Yet, they do not enjoy proper backing by the Department of Environment. Recently, a volunteer was imprisoned for engaging a poacher in a fight between the poacher and the gameguards.
PWHF are now beginning the active protection of Laristan sheep and tackling conservation challenges, from an ecological viewpoint as well as by tackling 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.