Curly-horned Marco Polo sheep on a mountain side, spotted during the Borderski expedition in 2015. Photo credit: Kate Harris.

Curly-horned Marco Polo sheep on a mountain side, spotted during the Borderski expedition in 2015. Photo credit: Kate Harris.

Borderwhat?

Borderski was a six-week, all-woman ski traverse of the eastern Pamir mountains in February/March 2015. Our goal was to explore the impact of border fences on local communities and migratory wildlife, especially Marco Polo sheep, and make a film that inspires others to think beyond borders.

Where?

Central Asia's Pamir mountains. Also known as Bam-i-Dunya, Persian for “the Roof of the World,” this range lies at the nexus of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Kyrgyzstan. 

Barbed-wire fence snaking along the border between Tajikistan and China. Makes it tough for Marco Polo sheep to migrate. Photo credit: Kate Harris.

Barbed-wire fence snaking along the border between Tajikistan and China. Makes it tough for Marco Polo sheep to migrate. Photo credit: Kate Harris.

Why?

The Pamir's most famous resident is the Marco Polo sheep, with horns so huge the Silk Road explorer who first described them was accused of hyperbole. Until relatively recently, wild herds could wander freely across Pamir borderland, their migrations mostly unimpeded by fences. But border security has tightened in the Pamir and beyond, with harsh consequences for migratory wildlife. 

Marco Polo sheep skull on the Pamir Plateau. Photo credit: Kate Harris.

Marco Polo sheep skull on the Pamir Plateau. Photo credit: Kate Harris.

Through Borderski, we hope to build a robust case for keeping the Pamir––and the world generally––as fenceless as possible.

How?

In a visually spectacular, character-driven film, BORDERSKI shares a story as wild as the mountains in which it unfolds. The narrative follows the three of us as we ski the eastern Pamir range, exploring the borderlands that Marco Polo sheep call home without regard to political divides. We confront fierce winds, bitter temperatures, corrupt police, and an unusually thin snowpack—proof that when it comes to borders, nature draws the final line.

Along the way, we cross paths with American wildlife biologist Tanya Rosen, who risks her own safety for the sake of Marco Polo sheep in the Pamir, where poverty poses the biggest threat to wildlife. Working with her is a remarkable Tajik man named Mahan Atabaev, once a poacher of Marco Polo sheep, now their protector. By thinking between the lines, these two are changing the way wildlife conservation is done the Pamirs—and helping both Marco Polo sheep and local communities in the process.

With the Borderski film, we hope to bring a little-known wilderness, a threatened species of wild sheep, and the need for conservation that transcends borders that much closer to home.