Conservation Program Helps Pakistani Mountain Goat Rebound From Brink of Extinction

There's some good news coming from the Middle East for a change. Thanks to a 30-year conservation plan involving limited hunts, populations of the straight-horned markhor, a wild goat in the mountains of Pakistan, are rebounding from near extinction, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week.

The agency says markhor populations are now healthy enough to warrant a reduction in the species’ status from endangered to threatened. In 1984, markhor numbers dwindled to only 200 animals inhabiting one small province in the Torghar Hills, because of heavy artillery use during long periods of political unrest. Today, specialists estimate there are over 3,500 of the mountain goats. The program has been so successful that other Pakistani regions are exploring markhor conservation projects of their own.

With news of the reclassification, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also announced a rule allowing the import of markhor trophies that have been legally harvested under one of these conservation programs, without the threatened species permit typically required per the Endangered Species Act. The agency's release says this special rule is meant to recognize “the benefit that this conservation approach has had and can continue to have for the straight-horned markhor.”

The species' recovery is largely due to funds raised through the sale of limited tags to international hunters by the Torghar Conservation Project. The funds have gone toward improving habitat, paying game warden salaries, constructing wells and irrigation channels, and boosting the tribal community's infrastructure. Although the release does not say how much money has been raised in this effort, a report from The Express Tribune says the fee for one of four markhor tags in the Gilgit-Baltistan territory of Pakistan was set at $70,000 for international hunters in the 2013-2014 season. The story also says that revenue generated in 2012 from the trophy hunting program in that region was $1,246,740.