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Return of the majestic markhor

A male markhor and kid at the Columbus Zoo. The wild goat has magnificent spiral horns and is a key prey species of the snow leopard. Photo by Graham Jones.

Markhor, the majestic wild goat and important snow leopard prey, is making a remarkable comeback in Pakistan, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society  (WCS). Surveys show there are now over 1500 markhor which is a huge increase since the last government estimate of less than 1,000 in 1999.

Markhor have been listed as Endangered by IUCN since 1994, with less than 2,500 animals across five countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and India. Their numbers have decreased due to illegal hunting, habitat destruction, and competition from domestic goats and sheep.

“We are thrilled that markhor conservation efforts in Pakistan are paying off,” said Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director of Asia programs. “Markhor are part of Pakistan’s natural heritage, and we are proud to be assisting the communities of Gilgit-Baltistan and the Government of Pakistan to safeguard this iconic species.”

Community support is the key to conservation of this species. Program Manager Mayoor Khan, developed a conservation program that helps build community conservation committees and trains wildlife rangers throughout Gilgit-Baltistan. Rangers monitor wildlife and enforce laws and regulations related to hunting. They have been so successful that all illegal hunting and logging have stopped in the valleys where they are active.

WCS work has helped not only markhor but also snow leopards and Asiatic black bear.


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