Tajik village alarmed by number of residents fighting in Syria
Afghan 119 police services prevent violence
Uzbekistan increases textile production
MQM sees rise in TTP extortion and threats
All set for international hunt of markhor and ibex
Last bidding date is October 31
By Amir Mohammad Khan
PESHAWAR – As winter sets in, villagers have the opportunity to watch endangered markhors and ibexes descend the steep mountains into the Chitral and Kohistan valleys.
But some locals are bracing for an international hunt of the majestic animals.
The Wildlife Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has invited bids from trophy hunters for markhor and ibex hunting permits during for the December-to-March hunting season. The deadline for bid bids is October 31.
Hunters will bid on four permits for Kashmiri markhor and ten ibex permits. The permits will be issued with the approval of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora, Chief Conservator Wildlife Department, Saeed-u-Zaman, told Central Asia Online.
The CITES agreement is a pact among governments to make international trade in wild animals and plants sustainable.
Markhors and ibexes are members of the goat genus, Capra. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) included markhors on the endangered species list in 1994 after the population of mature markhors dropped below 2,500. Its population fell by an estimated 20% over two generations because of overhunting and expansion of human settlements.
The Nubian ibex (Capra ibex nubiana), a subspecies, went onto the endangered species list in 1996. The population of Nubian ibex was estimated at less than 10,000 mature animals, with a decline rate of around 10% over two generations.
The Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica), found in Pakistan, was listed as a subspecies facing a lower threat of extinction with an indefinite population.
The markhor (Capra falconeri) is Pakistan’s national animal. Some markhors are found in northeastern Afghanistan, northern India, southern Tajikistan and southern Uzbekistan. The world’s largest surviving population of markhors is in Pakistan.
“We have an estimated 2,000 markhors in Chitral, in accordance with our survey last December,” Imtiaz Hussain, divisional forest officer Chitral, told Central Asia Online. “Only one male out of 100 markhors is allowed for trophy hunting under the rules.”
Hunting license fees help villagers , help protect species
Markhors are prized among trophy hunters for their flaring, splendid horns. Although intense hunting and expansion of human settlement affected markhor populations worldwide, the Wildlife Department has adopted trophy hunting as a tool for protecting the threatened animals.
The money generated from fees is distributed between the government and the local community involved in conservancies, with 80% going to local villagers. This economic incentive motivates locals to protect the species.
Last year, the wildlife department sold three markhor permits for $80,000, $75,000 and $65,000. The hunters paid an additional $100 for a big-game shooting license. Oyvin Christensen of Norway paid $81,200 in 2009 to hunt a Kashmiri markhor with a 47-in. trophy at Toshi game reserve.
The ibex is native to Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Gansu and Xinjiang areas of China, the Himachal Pradesh and Jammu-Kashmir areas of India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The Himalayan ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus) lives in the most remote parts of the Himalayan range. Until recently, it was extremely rare to spot an ibex in its natural habitat. Wildlife Department officials said the ibex population has stabilised thanks to recent conservation efforts.
The Siberian ibex primarily occupies rocky terrain and open alpine meadows and crags, seeking out lower elevations during the winter. It occupies steep habitats in a range of environments: deserts, low mountains and foothills, and high mountain ridges. It can also be found in areas with canyons, rocky outcrops, and steep terrain far from high mountains.
Ibex, markhor hunt should draw only experienced hunters
Given the rugged mountainous habitats of the markhor and ibex, the Wildlife Department encouraged only the toughest hunters to bid. Hunters have to conduct the entire hunt themselves. They also have to provide their transportation, boarding, lodging, export permits for trophies and their own rifles.
The Wildlife Department sold permits for hunting one ibex for US $3,000 last year. This year all successful bidders for markhor hunting have to buy hunting permits for ibexes as well. The hunters can pursue trophy-size markhors and ibexes only. They cannot hunt female or young animals.
Markhor and ibex hunting is done from December to March, when males come to lower elevations for mating, said Imtiaz Hussain.
“We have 20 to 25 trophy-size markhors, but CITES has allowed only four permits for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa this year,” he said.