With curlicue horns that resemble coiled snakes, the markhor proudly represents Pakistan as the country’s national mammal. It is also a key prey species for the country’s endangered snow leopards and other carnivores. But these “mountain monarchs,” as they were called by WCS conservationist Dr. George Schaller in his seminal 1977 book of the same name, have suffered population declines over the decades.
Since Schaller’s 1970s studies, WCS has helped seed more than 50 community conservation committees throughout northern Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region, in addition to an umbrella organization called the Mountain Conservation and Development Programme.
The hard work has paid off, with markhor numbers up by as much as 60 percent in Gilgit-Baltistan, where WCS trains rangers to monitor wildlife and enforce hunting and resource use regulations. Rangers have managed to stamp out illegal hunting and logging in most of the valleys where they operate.
Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director of Asia programs, explains, “We are thrilled that markhor conservation efforts in Pakistan are paying off. 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.”
Going forward, WCS will also employ a new tactic: markhor conservancies. By linking village committees together, conservationists ensure protection for markhor as they travel between steep-sided mountain terrains.
For additional information, read our press release