The markhor (Capra falconeri) is a wild goat species that lives in the mountainous regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and India. Though considered Pakistan's national mammal and a crucial part of the region's natural heritage, its population is critically endangered.
In early July 2012, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced good news for the markhor's future: Due to conservation efforts by the WCS and local communities, the iconic goat is making a comeback. In an effort to protect the remaining markhor population in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, the WCS developed a program that helps create community conservation committees and trains local wildlife rangers.
The markhor are known for their majestic corkscrew horns, which can reach nearly five feet in length. The species is threatened by illegal hunting, habitat destruction, and competition from domestic goats and sheep.
Local wildlife rangers keep track of the markhor population and enforce laws and regulations related to hunting and other resource use. In the valleys where the rangers are active, nearly all illegal hunting and logging has been halted.
In total, there are 53 community conservation committees dedicated to protecting the markhor within Pakistan. WCS has helped many of these communities coordinate their actions with each other and work with government officials to co-manage the region's wildlife and habitats.
Markhor have been listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1994, when the global population was estimated to be less than 2,500 animals. The population in Gilgit-Baltistan alone has increased from a low of only 40-50 individuals in 1991 to nearly 300 today, as counted by a community-led survey. According to the WCS, surveys such as this one suggest that the total markhor population of the region may be as high as 1,500 animals. Hopefully, that is enough to put this agile goat's future on more stable footing.