Markhor

12:45 AM

With its spectacular twisting horns, the markhor is one of the most striking of goats and is one of the largest species of wild goat that is found in northeastern Afghanistan, northern and central Pakistan, Kashmir in northern India, southern Tajikistan, southern Uzbekistan and in other parts of the Himalaya. The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan.

The coat is of a grizzled, light brown to black color, and is smooth and short in summer, while growing longer and thicker in winter. The fur of the lower legs is black and white. Markhor are sexually dimorphic, with males having longer hair on the chin, throat, chest and shanks. Females are redder in color, with shorter hair, a short black beard, and are maneless. Both sexes have tightly curled, corkscrew-like horns, which close together at the head, but spread upwards toward the tips (depending on the sub-species). The horns of males can grow up to 160 cm (63 in) long, and up to 25 cm (10 in) in females.
Relative Size
             Markhor stand 65 to 115 centimetres (26 to 45 in) at the shoulder, 132 to 186 centimetres (52 to 73 in) in length and weigh from 32 to 110 kilograms (71 to 243 lb). They have the highest maximum shoulder height among the species in the genus Capra, but is surpassed in length and weight by the Siberian ibex.
Did You Know
Markhors belong to a group of animals called 'goat-antelopes', which includes the musk ox, the chamois and the domestic goat. Markhor have spiral horns, which can grow to over a meter and a half long in males. Perhaps the most agile of all goats, the markhor is perfectly adapted to life on these sheer slopes. They are so sure-footed they can even climb trees.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Family
Bovidae
Genus
Capra
Species
falconeri
Other Names
English
Markhor
Balti
Reedakh
Ladaki
Rache
Persian, Urdu & Kashmiri
Markhor
Pashto
Marǧūmay
Status
Available data show that the earlier population decline had ceased for more than five years due to effective conservation measures. This has led to the stabilization of key subpopulations and increase in parts of the species range. Hence after 2015 assessment the species was categorized into Near Threatened and was changed from a previous category Vulnerable (assessments 1994, 1996 and 2008).
Population
The most recent data for most of the species’ range are from different time periods (2008–2014) and of variable quality, including information based on observations, estimates and educated guesses.  Data from 2011-2013 are available for most areas, suggesting a total of about 8,800 Markhor. This number does not include some areas for which no data are available for that period. Based on older data and trends we assumed that in total approximately 900 Markhor existed in those areas, for a global population of about 9,700. We therefore assess the global population to be more than 5,800 mature individuals.
Habitat
Markhor’s are adapted to mountainous terrain with steep cliffs, between 600 and 3,600 m elevation. And are typically found in areas with open woodlands, scrublands and light forests. In Pakistan and India these are made up primarily of Oaks (e.g. Quercus ilex), Pines (e.g. Pinus gerardiana), Junipers (e.g. Juniperus macropoda) and Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodora) as well as Spruce (Picea smithiana) and Fir (Abies spectabilis, A. pindrow) in certain areas.
Range
This species is found in northeastern Afghanistan, northern India (southwest Jammu and Kashmir), northern and central Pakistan, southern Tajikistan, southwestern Turkmenistan, and southern Uzbekistan.
Biology
Markhor live in flocks, usually numbering nine animals, composed of adult females and their young. Adult males are largely solitary. Markhor are diurnal, but most active in the early morning and late afternoon. They alternate seasonally between grazing (summer) and browsing (winter), eating grasses and leaves. Early in the season the males and females may be found together on the open grassy patches and clear slopes among the forest. During the summer, the males remain in the forest, while the females generally climb to the highest rocky ridges above.

The mating season takes place in winter, during which the males fight each other by lunging, locking horns and attempting to push each other off balance.  Females gestate for 135-170 days and give birth typically to 1-2 kids. Adult females and kids comprise most of the markhor population, with adult females making up 32% of the population and kids making up 31%. The animals are sexually mature at 18-30 months, and live up to 12-13 years.
Predators
Humans are the primary predators on markhor. Because markhor inhabit very steep and inaccessible mountainous habitat, several strongholds of markhor populations have been rarely approached by man. Golden eagles have been reported preying upon young markhor. Among wild carnivores, himalayan lynx, snow leopards and grey wolves are the main predators of markhor.
Threats
Within Afghanistan, Markhor have traditionally been hunted and this may have intensified during the Afghan wars since 1979. According to surveys by WCS in Nuristan during 2006-2007 and 2008 (WCS  2008), Markhor continue to be the most important game for local hunters (despite a nominal nationwide ban on hunting). Key threats to the Markhor’s range are insurgency-related effects, intensified local resource use, poaching, and large-scale development. Poaching by professional hunters may have been the primary cause of decimation of Markhor in the past, but communal hunting during winter was practiced until recently.
Conservation Measures
All subspecies and populations were up listed from Appendix II to Appendix I of CITES in 1992. CITES increased the annual export quota to 12 in 2002, to further encourage community-based conservation. In 2009 the species was listed on Afghanistan’s Protected Species List, making any hunting or trade within the country illegal. In India, Markhor is a fully protected (Schedule I) species under Jammu and Kashmir’s Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1978. In Pakistan, the Markhor is completely protected by federal law. In 1991, the Federal government imposed a 3-year ban on all big game hunting.


References

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