LAHORE - Trophy hunting has yielded positive results as population of critically-endangered national animal Markhor has increased considerably in its all natural habitats in KP, Balochistan, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, TheNation has learnt. 

Population of Suleiman and Kabul Markhor in Baltistan has reached from 2500 to 3000 and he same is the situation with Kashmir Markhor in KP and Gilgit-Baltistan. Population of Astore Markhor in Gilgit-Baltistan has reached over 500.

Markhor is fighting for its survival due to intensive hunting, loss of habitat, human warfare and increasing disturbance and competition from domestic goats and sheep. As Pakistan’s national mammal, Markhor are known for their impressive corkscrew horns that can reach nearly five feet in length. The Kashmir Markhor has large horns with 2-3 twists to the spiral, Suleiman Markhor has horns with open and tight twists, Astore Markhor having more flares near the base of the horns and Kabul Markhor having open and loose twist horns. Literal meaning of Markhor in local dialect is Mar (snake) Khor (eater/killer). However, they are herbivores and are known to kill snakes. They are an important prey species for large carnivores such as wolves and snow leopards.

Population of Markhor is small, highly fragmented, and isolated from one another. As human population growth and disturbance continues in the regions occupied by Markhor, threats to its survival continue to increase. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified Markhor as critically endangered species.

Trophy hunting played a major role in protection of Markhor as it not only created awareness but also provided financial benefits to the local people.

Introduced at the end of last century as part of conservation strategy to encourage local communities to help checking rapid decrease in population of critically endangered Markhor, trophy hunting has helped increasing population of national animal in fragmented habitats with every passing year. The hunters are bound to hunt only mature male Markhor having horn size of 32-36 inches and not lactic and young ones.

In 1999, trophy hunts were carried out for Suleiman, Kashmir and Astore Markhor in their respective habitats. Two licenses were issued for trophy hunting in each of the three habitats. Later in 2004, the number of licenses for trophy hunting was doubled after significant increase in population of Markhor in its habitats. Each hunt was auctioned for 18,000 US Dollar in 1999. In 2000, the auction went up to 25,000 Dollar and reached 45,000 Dollars per Markhor in 2005. In 2014, trophy hunting for one Markhor crossed 100000 Dollar, meaning availability of handsome amount for community welfare and measures for the protection of critically endangered species.

t of the money collected through trophy hunting of Markhor, 80 per cent goes to the local community for spending on projects of own choice and remaining to the government for management related purposes.