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Title: Spatial density pattern of Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica) in Pakistan
Abstract: Mountain ungulates perform a key role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems as they are the primary consumers of vegetation and prey for large predators. The mountain ranges of northern Pakistan are home to six species of mountain ungulates, and the Himalayan ibex (Capra sibirica), hereafter ibex, is the most abundant among them. This study was conducted in three administrative regions of northern Pakistan, viz. Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), to generate a range-wide density pattern map of ibex. A double-observer survey was conducted in 25 study sites during 2018–2021 across the ibex distribution range, covering an area of about 35,307 km2, by walking transects totaling 1647 km. Within the ibex range where the survey was not conducted due to financial and logistical constraints, we obtained species population information from local wildlife departments’ most recent annual survey data. The aim was to generate a density map for the entire ibex range. Using the BBRe-capture package in program R, we estimated an ibex population of 7639 (95 % CI) with a mean density of 0.21/km2 in the surveyed area. Combining with the secondary data from un-surveyed areas, the total population estimate for the country came to 10,242 ibex. The largest population densities were observed in four valleys (Shimshal, Gulkin-Hussaini, Khyber, and Khunjerab) of the Karakoram-Pamir range, followed by the Hindu Kush range (Chitral Wildlife Division [WD]). The central and eastern parts of the Karakoram range had moderate to low densities, while the Himalayan range (e.g., Astore Valley) supported a small population. The mean herd size was 15 individuals (range: 5–41), and the average detection probability of observers A and B was 0.69 and 0.48, respectively. The average male and young ratios per 100 females were estimated to be 75 and 81, respectively. The range-wide density map developed during the study provided an evidence for the impact of trophy hunting programs and an objective tool for range-wide conservation planning of the species.