The Markhor (Capra falconeri) is a bovid mammal closely related to the Wild Goat (Capra aegagrus)--the progenitor of the Domestic Goat--and several species of ibex. Males weigh around twice as much as females. Both sexes have horns, but those of males are much larger and more elaborate. The horns are highly variable in form, even within a population. In males, shaggy hair develops on the front of the animal and the long hair on the cheeks is continuous with the long hair forming the beard (females also develop a small beard).
Markhors are found in South and Central Asia at 600 to 3600 m above sea level (in the Himalayas they occur from around 1700 to 3600 m, but more southern populations occur at lower elevations). They are found in open forested or shrubby areas. Markhors are reputed to be the most agile climbers of all the Asian Capra. Major wild predators are Gray Wolves (Canis lupus) and Snow Leopards (Panthera uncia). Moving and feeding are more common in the morning and late afternoon.
The status of most Markhor populations is poorly known, but this is an endangered species. It is threatened by commercial and subsistence hunting as well as habitat degradation and fragmentation. Efforts to encourage protection of Markhors by local communities as part of regulated trophy hunting programs have seen some success in helping populations to recover.
(Valdez 2011 and references therein)
Scattered populations of Capra falconeri, first described by Wagner in 1839, and commonly referred to as markhors, may be found throughout the arid and steppe regions of the western Himalayas. Countries of discontinuous distribution are limited to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
- Huffman, B. 2004. "Capra falconeri (Markhor)" (On-line). The Ultimate Ungulate Page. Accessed June 02, 2005 at http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Capra_falconeri.html.
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Capra falconeri falconeri
Within Afghanistan, it is historically been limited to the east in the high mountainous, monsoon forests of Laghman and Nuristan. Within India, markhor is restricted to part of the Pir Panjal range in southwestern Jammu and Kashmir (Ranjitsinh et al. 2005, Bhatnagar et al. 2007). Populations are scattered throughout this range starting from just east of the Banihal pass (50 km from the Chenab river) on the Jammu-Srinagar highway westward to the disputed border with Pakistan. Populations are known from recent surveys still to occur in catchments of the Limber and Lachipora rivers in the Jhelum Valley Forest Division, and around Shupiyan to the south of Srinagar. In Pakistan, Schaller and Khan (1975) considered the former Astor markhor (C. f. falconeri) and Kashmir markhor (C. f cashmiriensis) to be one subspecies – the flare-horned markhor. The distribution map given by Schaller and Khan (1975) seems still valid for this markhor, though the populations within the large range along the Indus have probably since decreased. Markhor is mainly confined to the Indus and its tributaries, as well as to the Kunar (Chitral) river and its tributaries. Along the Indus, it inhabits both banks from Jalkot (District Kohistan) upstream to near the Tungas village (District Baltistan), with Gakuch being its western limit up the Gilgit river, Chalt up the Hunza river, and the Parishing valley up the Astor river (Schaller and Khan, 1975). The occurrence of this markhor on the right side of the Yasin valley (Gilgit District) in the recent past (Schaller and Kahn, 1975) was also reported to R. Hess in 1986, but could not be confirmed. The flare-horned markhor is also found around Chitral and the border areas with Afghanistan where it inhabits a number of valleys along the Kunar river (Chitral District), from Arandu on the west bank and Drosh on the east bank, up to Shoghor along the Lutkho river, and as far as Barenis along the Mastuj river (Schaller and Khan, 1975).
Capra falconeri heptneri
This subspecies previously occupied most of the mountains lying along the north banks of the Upper Amu Darya and the Pyanj rivers from Turkmenistan to Tajikistan. Today it is found in only about two to three scattered populations in a greatly reduced distribution. It is limited to the region between lower Pyanj and the Vakhsh rivers near Kulyab in Tajikistan (about 70”E and 37’40’ to 38”N), and in the Kugitangtau range in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (around 66’40’E and 37’30’N) (Weinberg et al.1997). This subspecies may possibly exist in the Darwaz peninsula of northern Afghanistan near the border with Tajikistan. Almost nothing was known of this subspecies or its distribution in Afghanistan before 1979 (Habibi, 1977), and no new information has been developed in Afghanistan since that time.
Capra falconeri megaceros
In Afghanistan, at least until 1978, this markhor survived only in the Kabul Gorge and the Kohe Safi area of Kapissa, and in some isolated pockets in between. Intensive hunting pressure had forced it into the most inaccessible regions of its once wider range in the mountains of Kapissa and Kabul Provinces. In Pakistan, the most comprehensive study of the distribution and status of the straight-horned markhor comes from Schaller and Khan (1975). They showed a huge recent past range for this subspecies, but the present range in Pakistan consists only of small isolated areas in Baluchistan, a small area in NWFP, and one unconfirmed occurrence in Dera Ghazi Khan District (Punjab Province). Virk (1991) summarized the actual information for Baluchistan Province and confirmed the subspecies’ presence in the area of the Koh-i-Sulaiman (District Zhob) and the Takatu hills (District Quetta), both according to Ahmad (1989), and in the Torghar hills of the Toba Kakar range (District Zhob) (Tareen, 1990). The NWFP Forest Department (NWFP, 1987) considered that the areas of Mardan and Sheikh Buddin were still inhabited by the subspecies. There is no actual information about the Safed Koh range (Districts of Kurram and Khyber) where, according to Schaller and Khan (1975), probably at least 100 animals lived on the Pakistan side of the border at the time of their survey.
Capra falconeri is highly sexually dimorphic in size. Males weigh between 80 and 110 kg, whereas females weigh only 32 to 50 kg. Body length varies between 140 and 180 cm, and the tail may add an additional 8 to 14 cm to the total length.
The relatively short coat of C. falconeri can range in color from light tan to dark brown, and even black. Capra falconeri differs from Capra ibex in that it lacks the extremely dense winter underwool possessed by the latter. Fringed beards are present in both sexes, but are thicker, longer, and more distinct in male markhors.
Light and dark color patterns, typical of all C. falconeri subspecies, are present on the lower legs. Capra falconeri lacks the knee tufts, inguinal and suborbital glands present in many species of goats inhabiting mountainous regions.
Males and females both posses extremely bold, flared, corkscrew-like horns. These horns twist outward and may reach lengths up to 160 cm in males and 24 cm in females. The angle and direction of horn curvature varies among the seven subspecies of C. falconeri. Horn color varies from dark to reddish-brown.
Although some might mistake C. falconeri for other members of the genus from a distance, the horns of markhors make them quite unique in appearance. Northern populations of C. falconeri can be easily distinguished from Capra aegagrus by the dorsal crest and lower hanging beard in C. falconeri, as well as the differences in horn morphology and coloration.
Range mass: 32 to 110 kg.
Range length: 140 to 180 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; ornamentation
- Roberts, T. 1997. The Mammals of Pakistan. Pakistan, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Capra falconeri is adapted to mountainous terrain between 600 m and 3600 m elevation. Moreover, the presence of C. falconeri is strongly associated with scrub forests made up primarily of oaks (Quercus ilex), pines (Pinus gerardiana), and junipers (Juniperus macropoda).
Range elevation: 600 to 3600 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
As is true of other large, mountain-dwelling ungulates, C. falconeri maintains a strictly herbivorous diet composed of a variety of grasses in the spring and summer months. During the autumn and winter months, it switches over to eatingleaves, twigs, and shrubs. Markhor diets include, but are not limited to, Pennisetum orientale, Enneapogon persicum, Hippophae rhamnoides, and Quercus ilex.
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Lignivore)
- Schaller, G. 1975. Distribution and Status of the Markor (Capra falconeri). Biological Conservation, 7: 185-198.
Threatened Vertebrate Associates in the Hindu Kush Alpine Meadow Ecoregion
The Hindu Kush alpine meadow has an expanse of some 10,900 square miles, situated in northeastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Most of the lands lie within the Hindu Kush Mountain Range in the altitude bracket between 3000 to 4000 meters, and correspondingly most of the precipitation is in the form of snow. This ecoregion is classified within the Montane Grasslands and Shrublands biome.
This ecoregion manifests a low rate of vertebrate endemism; however there are ten special status mammals found here, ranging from the status of Endangered to Near Threatened. The Hindu Kush alpine meadow ecoregion consists of higher elevation terrain of moderate to severe slopes. Vegetation is often sparse or almost lacking, with resulting pastoral usage of low intensity grazing of goats and sheep in some areas. Soils are largely leptosols, but many areas are covered by large expanses of rock outcrop or rocky scree. In the limited areas of arable soils, wheat is sometimes farmed, although growing of opium poppies is the only cash crop. Most of the water available for plant and animal life is supplied by snowmelt. The Helmand River, Afghanistan's largest watercourse, represents the chief catchment within the ecoregion, with headwaters rising in the Hindu Kush Range, and eventual discharge to the endorheic Sistan Basin.
Special status mammals found in the Hindu Kush alpine meadow are: the Near Threatened argali (Ovis ammon), the Vulnerable Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), the Near Threatened European otter (Lutra lutra), the Near Threatened leopard (Panthera pardus), the Endangered markhor (Capra falconeri), the Near Threatened mountain weasel (Mustela altaica), the Near Threatened Schreiber's long-fingered bat (Miniopteris schreibersi), the Endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia), the Near Threatened striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) and the Endangered Moschus leucogaster. Special status birds in the Hindu Kush alpine meadow are represented by the Endangered Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopteris).
Markhors aid in the dispersal of seeds of the wild grasses that compose their diet. Additionally, C. falconeri serves as an important food source for several large mountain mammals, including Himalayan lynx, snow leopards, wolves, and panthers. As a result, markhor populations are usually small and composed of strong and healthy individuals.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
- grey goral (Naemorhedus goral)
- Wilson,, D., D. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Although rare, documentation exists of golden eagles preying upon young markhors. Humans hunt markhors, although they have been unable to penetrate several mountainous strongholds of markhor populations. Adult and young markhors are also preyed upon by Himalayan lynx, snow leopards, wolves, and panthers.
- Himalayan lynx
- snow leopards
- golden eagles
Life History and Behavior
Considering the relatively open and exposed habitat area of C. falconeri, it is not surprising that this mammal possesses intensely keen eyesight. The sense of smell is also extremely developed. Both of the aforementioned senses are utilized in territory recognition and predator detection. Capra falconeri continually scans its environment for the presence of predators. Markhor exhibits highly calculated and intense movements in response to predator detection.
Additionally, during the birthing season, female markhors have been documented giving a distinctive nasal call when approaching their young.
Tactile communication is used in the rut, as males compete with one another for mating opportunities.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The lifespan of C. falconeri ranges from 11 to 13 years. The species is both hardy and resilient, and as a result, small herds may be successfully reared and maintained in captivity.
Status: wild: 11 to 13 years.
Status: captivity: 10 to 13 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Like most ungulates, C. falconeri does not mate monogamously. Markhors breed annually, with males competing aggressively during the rut for the right to sire the offspring of female herds.
Mating System: polygynous
Capra falconeri breeds annually, with the rut occurring in the autumn and winter months. It is during this time that solitary males may temporarily join female herds.
Pregnancy lasts 135 to 170 days. Each pregnancy can produce 1 or 2 offspring. Weaning occurs at the age of 5 or 6 months. Young typically remain with their mother until breeding season. Reproductive maturity occurs at the age of 18 to 36 months, and is later in males than in females.
Breeding interval: Markhors breed annually.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs during fall and winter months.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Range gestation period: 4.5 to 5.67 months.
Range weaning age: 5 to 6 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 to 30 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 36 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Average number of offspring: 2.
Markhors are usually born in the spring and summer months of May and June. The young are initially born in a shallow earthen hollow. They are able to walk soon after birth, and can travel with the mother. Mothers provide nourishment (milk) and protection to their growing young. They stay with the mother for approximately 6 months, although there are several reports of kids remaining with the mother thereafter. Males are not reported to participate in parental care.
Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents; inherits maternal/paternal territory
- Burrand, M. 1925. Big Game Hunting in the Himalayas and Tibet. London: Herbert Jenkins.
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Capra falconeri
No available public DNA sequences.
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Capra falconeri
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Capra falconeri is prized among trophy hunters and members of the Asian medicine market. They face habitat competition from both domestic livestock and local agriculture. As a result, all populations of feral C. falconeri have been steadily declining over the past 40 years.
Since 1976, kabul (C. falconeri megaceros), straight-horned (C. falconeri jerdoni), and chithan markhor (C. falconeri chiltanensis), have been declared endangered by the USFWS. In addition, C. falconeri was classified as endangered and conservation-dependant in 1996 by the IUCN. The latter classification indicates that the long-term survival of this species is heavily dependent on the initiation and maintenance of conservation programs.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Endangered(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Capra falconeri falconeri
In Afghanistan, some 350 markhor were counted in western Nuristan (Petocz, 1972), which was considered a small proportion of the animals present. The population was believed to be declining steeply 10 years ago. Camera and hunter surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society in Nuristan during 2006-07 suggest that the species is now quite rare, and remaining individuals continue to be of interest to poachers.
In 1975, markhor were estimated to total 250 to 300 animals in India (Schaller and Khan, 1975). In 2005, Ranjitsinh et al. (2005) conducted surveys in most of the historical range of markhor in the Pir Panjal mountains of Jammu and Kashmir, observing 155 markhor within 2 of the 7 blocks surveyed. They guessed the total population within the surveyed area of Jammu and Kashmir to be some 280-330 markhor (although stressed that they did not believe this represented a true population increase from previous estimates). Bhatnagar et al. (2007) estimated 63 ±16 in the Limber catchment of this area.
In Pakistan, there are comparable population numbers over the last 20 years for three areas. 1) In 1970, the Chitral Gol, a valley of 77.5 km² in the Chitral District, and at that time the private hunting reserve of the Mehtar of Chitral, was estimated to harbor 100 to 125 animals (Schaller and Mirza, 1971). In 1984, this area was declared a National Park, and by 1985-86, it contained 160 (census) to 300 (estimated) animals. In addition, the proportion of males 24.5 years old increased during the same period (Hess, 1986). Within this time span, Aleem (1979) registered a maximum of 520 animals in Chitral Gol in 1979. The increase was attributed to better protection from poaching and to other improvement efforts in the Park (Malik, 1985). However, according to the latest official census (Ahmad, unpubl. data), the population in Chitral Gol NP was reduced to 195 markhor in 1987. 2) For the Tushi GR in the Chitral District, Schaller and Khan (1975) estimated 125 animals, a number similar to that estimated in 1985-86 (anonymous 1986, Hess in press). 3) The population of markhor in the Kargah GS (Gilgit District) was estimated by Roberts (1969) as not less than 500 to 600 animals; by Schaller and Khan (1975) as 50; by Rasool (no date, probably 1976) as 109; by Hess (1986) as 50 to 75; and by Rasool (unpubl. data) in 1991 as 40-50. In 1983, Rasool (unpubl. data) estimated that this area was the best area for markhor within the Gilgit District. Schaller and Khan (1975) estimated a total of at least 5,250 flare-horned markhor living in Pakistan, in the border areas with Afghanistan, and in India. The official census for Chitral District gave 6 17 markhor for 1985-86, and the NWFP Forest Department (NWFP, 1992) estimated 1,075 for the whole province (619 - Chitral, 109 - Dir, 58 - Swat, 221 - Kohistan, 50 - Mansehra; NWFP, 1992). The Wildlife Wing (Northern Areas Forest Dept., unpubl. data) estimated a total of 1,000 to 1,500 markhor in the Northern Areas in 1993 (Districts Gilgit, Diamir and Baltistan), though there may be no more than a maximum of 40 to 50 animals for a single area. Hence the population of this subspecies appears to have decreased since 1975. Today, less than 2,500 to 3,000 flare-horned markhor are estimated to survive in Pakistan.
Capra falconeri heptneri
In the ex-Soviet republics, the total population was estimated to be about 700 animals, and numbers generally decreasing in the 1990s (Shackleton et al. 1997), although Weinberg et al. (1997), based on reports from game wardens and local inhabitants, believed the population in Kugitang Nature Reserve in eastern Turkmenistan was increasing during the mid-1990s. In the Khozratisho range and in Kushvoristone (Tajikistan) there were around 350 markhor (Sokov, 1989), but nothing is known about current population numbers in Tajikistan. A recent survey in Kugitang revealed that its western (Turkmenistan) slopes harbor over 250 markhor (Weinberg et al. 1997, Fedosenko et al. 2000). In the early 1980s there were 400 in the whole of Uzbekistan according to the Uzbek Red Data Book (1983), but in 1994 there were only 290 estimated in this Republic, with only 86 counted in the Surkhan Nature Reserve in May 1993 (Chernagaev et al., 1995). There is no estimate for Afghanistan.
Capra falconeri megaceros
In Afghanistan, very few animals survived even 10 years ago, perhaps 50-80 in the Kohe Safi region, with a few in other isolated pockets. In Pakistan, Schaller and Khan (1975) estimated that more than 2,000 individuals remained throughout the entire range of straight-horned markhor. Roberts (1969) estimated that the total population of the former subspecies C. f. jerdoni, restricted mainly to the Province of Baluchistan, may have exceeded 1,000 animals, but that it was severely threatened because it survived in discontinuous and isolated pockets. For this same area, Schaller and Khan (1975) estimated less than 1,000 animals. Roberts (1969) believed that the main concentration of this former subspecies was in the Toba Kakar and Torghar hills and numbers could have been less than 500. Johnson (1997) estimated there were 695 Sulaiman markhor in the Torghar Hills in 1994. However, Rosser et al. (2005) summarized results from more recent surveys that suggested markhor in the Torghar Hills had increased to over 1,600 by the year 2000. Schaller and Khan (1975) estimated 150 straight-horned markhor living in the Takatu hills in 1971, but later Ahmad (1989) reported that only 50 still existed in these hills, and only 100 in the area of Koh-i-Sulaiman. The NWFP Forest Department (NWFP, 1992) gave a total of only 24 animals for the whole province: 12 for the Mardan area, and 12 for the Sheikh Buddin NP. There is no recent estimate for the total number of straight-horned markhor in Pakistan.
Within Afghanistan, markhor have been traditionally hunted in Nuristan and Laghman, and this may have intensified during the war. Domestic livestock were also increasing 10 years ago, creating competition for forage. According to surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society in Nuristan during 2007, markhor continue to be attractive for local hunters (despite a nominal ban on hunting nationwide). The continued existence of markhor in India is threatened by hunting and some habitat alteration. The small population of markhor in India justifies its Endangered status. The primary current threat related to hunting is increasing in association with the civil unrest and armed conflict present in the region of its habitat along India’s border with Pakistan. Thus, the main threat to markhor in India is their value as food within areas of armed conflict, although their high value as a trophy species also makes them sought after by hunters. Flare-horned markhor generally occur only in small (<100), scattered populations and at low densities throughout most of northern Pakistan. Control of poaching in Chitral Gol NP has been successful (Malik, 1985), and similar protection should be afforded other populations. Such actions alone may not be sufficient, however. Despite less poaching, markhor numbers have decreased and no more than 200 are believed to remain in Chitral Gol NP (Ahmad, unpubl. data).
Capra falconeri heptneri
In Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, markhor are reportedly poached for meat and for horns which are used for medicinal purposes in the large Asian market. Animals are also threatened by habitat loss, disturbance and forage competition from domestic livestock.
Capra falconeri megaceros
In Afghanistan, excessive hunting by local people and forage competition with livestock were pushing markhor to the periphery of its range. Such severe pressure was endangering the population towards a slow demise, and its status is unlikely to have improved since. In Pakistan, hunting and livestock competition, as well as significant habitat loss caused by logging in the Suleiman range, which is the most important area of straight-horned markhor’s distribution.
Capra falconeri falconeri
Listed in Appendix I of CITES. Within Afghanistan, the species was protected nominally by a nationwide presidential decree banning hunting, but this ban was not generally enforced. In 2009 the species as a whole was listed on Afghanistan’s Protected Species List, making any hunting or trade of this species within the country illegal. Conservation measures proposed include: 1) census current population numbers, productivity and distributions; 2) re-assess conservation potentials after population surveys have been made; and, based on these data 3) consider a series of hunting reserves that have full support of the local people. This is probably the best chance for the flare-horned markhor’s survival. It will be critical to the success of such a program that the local people receive a substantial benefit from the operation of such reserves. Nuristan and Laghman are home to some of the toughest tribes in the country, with non-integrated societies that are frequently at odds with each other.
In India, it is a fully protected (Schedule I) species in Jammu and Kashmir’s Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1978 (Ganhar, 1979). Currently, markhor in India occurs in only three small protected areas: the Limber Game Reserve and the Lachipora and Hirapora Wildlife Sanctuaries. Conservation measures proposed include: 1) A new survey, with subsequent monitoring, is urgently needed to reassess the current status of the Astor markhor in India. However, this will have to await the easing of political tension and violence in the area. 2) Consider future re-introductions to previously inhabited ranges in the Pir Panjal mountains.
In Pakistan, the markhor is completely protected by federal law (Rao, 1986). A trophy hunting program for markhor was initiated in 1998, with a total of 7 animals legally taken through 2001 (Shackleton 2001). The quota was increased by CITES in 2002 from 6 to 12 animals due to the success of the program with the purpose of encouraging local communities for conservation of markhor through economic incentives from trophy hunting program. The central government issues permits only to areas in which a community-based trophy hunting program has been established; as of 2000, 80% of hunter fees were mandated to go to the community (although inter-community, as well as provincial-federal disputes over receipts and permitting have occurred). The program has continued through 2007 with trophy price for markhor increasing from US $18,000 to about US $57,000. According of official records, approximately US $830,000 has been distributed to communities within Northwest Frontier Province since 1998 from hunter remittances from the 17 markhor taken since 1998 (A. Khan, unpublished data, Northwest Frontier Province Wildlife Management, 2008).
Several protected areas contain flare-horned markhor: NWFP - Chitral District: Chitral Gol NP, Drosh Gol GR, Gahirat Gol GR, Goleem Gol GR, Goleen Gol GR, Purit Gol- Chinar Gol GR, Tushi GR (NWFP, 1992); Swat District: Totalai GR (Zool. Survey Dept., 1987). Northwn Areas - Gilgit District: Kargah WS, Naltar WS, Danyore GR, Sherqillah GR. (Rasool, no date); Diamir District: Astor WS, Tangir GR (Rasool, no date); Baltistan District: Baltistan WS, Askor Nallah GR (Rasool, no date). Azad Jammu and Kashmir - Muzaffarabad: Mauji CR, Qazi Nag GR, Hillan CR (Zool. Survey Dept., 1986); Poonch District: Phala GR (Qayyum, 1986, 47). Despite containing only about 200 animals, Chitral Gol NP may still protect the largest population of flare-horned markhor in the world—an indication of how critical the status of this subspecies is. Conservation measures proposed include: 1) stop allowing foreign hunters to take animals in Chitral Gol National Park; 2) treat Kargah GS as a focal area for markhor and enforce protection measures (Kargah is probably the best place for markhor in the Gilgit District, and like the Chitral Gol, should be rather easy to control because it is a traditional wildlife sanctuary and is close to Gilgit); 3) adopt a similar procedure for the area around Bagheecha in the Indus valley, which is one of the best places in Baltistan for markhor and also relatively easy to control; and 4) do not lift the hunting ban (which is excepted for approved community-based trophy hunts), as is currently being considered for the Northern Areas, because no single area contains greater than 50 animals.
Capra falconeri heptneri
Listed in Appendix I of CITES. It occurs in three Nature Reserves: Kugitang (Turkmensitan), Surkhan (Uzbekistan), and Dashti Jum (Tajikistan). Hunting by foreigners is currently permitted (at least two markhor/ year) in Tajikistan, with the government planning to allow more to be hunted in 1993-94, but the current status of hunting is uncertain. In Uzbekistan, two markhor were taken in 1994, and “Glavbiocontrol” of the State Committee for Nature Protection planned for two markhor licenses to be issued in 1995 (Anon., 1995b). A captive herd of markhor is reported in Dashti Jum NR, and a captive breeding program is apparently underway in Ramit Nature Reserve in the Gissar range (Tajikistan), with about 10 animals released by 1989. All markhor currently held in western zoos are considered to belong to this subspecies. Conservation measures proposed include: 1) stop poaching as soon as possible; 2) halt trophy hunting until professional biologists have completed adequate population surveys and thoroughly assessed the suitability of such programs; and 3) enlarge the size of the Kugitang Nature Reserve (Turkmenistan) on the western slopes of the Kugitangtau, because it protects only the high elevation summer habitat of markhor and the currently unprotected lower winter ranges are grazed by livestock. In Afghanistan, no measures were taken in the country and the species occurs in no protected areas. Much needed are surveys to determine if the taxon occurs in Afghanistan.
Capra falconeri megaceros
Listed in Appendix I of CITES. In Afghanistan, no measures were taken in the country and the species occurs in no protected areas. Status within country is Indeterminate (probably Endangered). Drastic measures will be required if the Kabul markhor is still alive today. It is necessary to carry out surveys to assess numbers and distribution as soon as possible. Public support for its conservation is essential if it is to survive, but this will be difficult to obtain.
Only one protected area is known to contain straight-horned markhor in Pakistan: Sheikh Buddin NP (previously a Wildlife Sanctuary) in Dera Ismail Khan District of NWFP (Zoological Survey Dept., 1987). The status of the subspecies in protected areas in Baluchistan is uncertain. Its occurrence is not confirmed in Chiltan-Hazarganji NP, and there is no reliable information for either Sasnamana or Ziarat Juniper WS’s. There are no reports of any in protected areas in Punjab. Due to recent protective measures in Koh-i-Sulaiman area, the population may be increasing slowly, but poaching still occurs in Takatu.
The Torghar Conservation Project in Baluchistan however, appears to have had success in reducing poaching and competition by livestock (Johnson 1997); the markhor population in this area is reported to have increased steadily since initiation of the program Torghar (Rosser et al. 2005).
Additional conservation measures proposed are: 1) immediately develop a conservation and management plan that includes information on the status and distribution of the subspecies in the areas it still inhabits; 2) include participatory management in the tribal areas in this plan; 3) besides the Torghar hills, consider the area of Koh-i-Sulaiman and the Takatu hills as a focal area for conservation efforts; and 4) if feasible, establish a captive population.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Capra falconeri does not have any particular negative economic impact on humans. These mammals are relatively docile, and will quickly sprint away upon detection of a human. Although the majority of the terrain in which markhors live is extremely arid and mountainous, they are facing competition from livestock, such as domestic goats and sheep.
Markhors are heavily hunted by humans during the winter months. It is during this time that the majority of markhors descends to lower elevations in search of forage.
Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material; source of medicine or drug
The markhor (Capra falconeri; Pashto: مرغومی marǧūmi; Persian/Urdu: مارخور) is a large species of wild goat that is found in northeastern Afghanistan, northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan , some parts of Pakistani Controlled Kashmir (Gilgit-Baltistan) and Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, southern Tajikistan and southern Uzbekistan. It is also known as Shakhawat.
The species was classed by the IUCN as Endangered, as there were fewer than 2,500 mature individuals but in recent years the numbers have actually increasing by an estimated 20% for last decade. The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan.
The colloquial name is thought by some to be derived from the Persian word mar, meaning snake, and khor, meaning "eater", which is sometimes interpreted to either represent the species' ability to kill snakes, or as a reference to its corkscrewing horns, which are somewhat reminiscent of coiling snakes. According to folklore (Explanation by Shah Zaman Gorgani), the markhor has the ability to kill a snake and eat it. Thereafter, while chewing the cud, a foam-like substance comes out of its mouth which drops on the ground and dries. This foam-like substance is sought after by the local people, who believe it is useful in extracting snake poison from snake bitten wounds.
- Persian, Chitrali, Urdu and Kashmiri: مارخور markhor
- Pashto: مرغومی marǧūmay
- Ladaki: rache, rapoche (male) and rawache (female)
- Burushaski: halden, haldin (male) and giri, giri Halden (female)
- Shina: Boom Mayaro, (male) and Boom Mayari (female)
- Brahui: rezkuh, matt (male) and hit, harat (female)
- Baluchi: pachin, sara (male) and buzkuhi (female)
- Wakhi: youksh, ghashh (male) and moch (female)
- Khowar: Tonushu, ' 
Markhor stand 65 to 115 centimetres (26 to 45 in) at the shoulder, 132 to 186 centimetres (52 to 73 in) in length and weigh from 32 to 110 kilograms (71 to 243 lb). They have the highest maximum shoulder height among the species in the genus Capra, but is surpassed in length and weight by the Siberian ibex. The coat is of a grizzled, light brown to black colour, and is smooth and short in summer, while growing longer and thicker in winter. The fur of the lower legs is black and white. Markhor are sexually dimorphic, with males having longer hair on the chin, throat, chest and shanks. Females are redder in colour, with shorter hair, a short black beard, and are maneless. Both sexes have tightly curled, corkscrew-like horns, which close together at the head, but spread upwards toward the tips. The horns of males can grow up to 160 cm (64 inches) long, and up to 25 cm (10 inches) in females. The males have a pungent smell, which surpasses that of the domestic goat.
Markhor are adapted to mountainous terrain, and can be found between 600 and 3,600 meters in elevation. They typically inhabit scrub forests made up primarily of oaks (Quercus ilex), pines (Pinus gerardiana), and junipers (Juniperus macropoda). They are diurnal, and are mainly active in the early morning and late afternoon. Their diets shift seasonally: in the spring and summer periods they graze, but turn to browsing in winter, sometimes standing on their hind legs to reach high branches. The mating season takes place in winter, during which the males fight each other by lunging, locking horns and attempting to push each other off balance. The gestation period lasts 135–170 days, and usually results in the birth of one or two kids, though rarely three. Markhor live in flocks, usually numbering nine animals, composed of adult females and their young. Adult males are largely solitary. Adult females and kids comprise most of the markhor population, with adult females making up 32% of the population and kids making up 31%. Adult males comprise 19%, while subadults (males aged 2–3 years) make up 12%, and yearlings (females aged 12–24 months) make up 9% of the population. Their alarm call closely resembles the bleating of domestic goats. Early in the season the males and females may be found together on the open grassy patches and clear slopes among the forest. During the summer, the males remain in the forest, while the females generally climb to the highest rocky ridges above.
Subspecies and range
Astor markhor (Capra falconeri falconeri) has large, flat horns, branching out very widely, and then going up nearly straight with only a half turn. It is synonymous with Capra falconeri cashmiriensis or pir punjal markhor, which has heavy, flat horns, twisted like a corkscrew.
Within Afghanistan, the Astor markhor is limited to the east in the high and mountainous monsoon forests of Laghman and Nuristan. In India, this subspecies is restricted to a portion of the Pir Panjal range in southwestern Jammu and Kashmir. Throughout this range, Astor markhor populations are scattered, starting east of the Banihal Pass (50 km from the Chenab River) on the Jammu-Srinagar highway westward to the disputed border with Pakistan. Recent surveys indicate it still occurs in catchments of the Limber and Lachipora Rivers in the Jhelum Valley Forest Division, and around Shupiyan to the south of Srinagar. In Pakistan, the Astor markhor there is restricted to the Indus and its tributaries, as well as to the Kunar (Chitral) River and its tributaries. Along the Indus, it inhabits both banks from Jalkot (Kohistan District) upstream to near the Tungas village (Baltistan), with Gakuch being its western limit up the Gilgit River, Chalt up the Hunza River, and the Parishing Valley up the Astore River. It has been said to occur on the right side of the Yasin Valley (Gilgit District), though this is unconfirmed. The flare-horned markhor is also found around Chitral and the border areas with Afghanistan, where it inhabits a number of valleys along the Kunar River (Chitral District), from Arandu on the west bank and Drosh on the east bank, up to Shoghor along the Lutkho River, and as far as Barenis along the Mastuj River. The largest population is currently found in Chitral National Park in Pakistan.
Although the Bukharan markhor (Capra falconeri heptneri) formerly lived in most of the mountains stretching along the north banks of the Upper Amu Darya and the Pyanj Rivers from Turkmenistan to Tajikistan, two to three scattered populations now occur in a greatly reduced distribution. It is limited to the region between lower Pyanj and the Vakhsh Rivers near Kulyab in Tajikistan (about 70”E and 37’40’ to 38”N), and in the Kugitangtau Range in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (around 66’40’E and 37’30’N). This subspecies may possibly exist in the Darwaz Peninsula of northern Afghanistan near the border with Tajikistan. Before 1979, almost nothing was known of this subspecies or its distribution in Afghanistan, and no new information has been developed in Afghanistan since that time.
Until 1978, the Kabul markhor survived in Afghanistan only in the Kabul Gorge and the Kohe Safi area of Kapissa, and in some isolated pockets in between. It now lives the most inaccessible regions of its once wider range in the mountains of Kapissa and Kabul Provinces, after having been driven from its original habitat due to intensive hunting. In Pakistan, its present range consists only of small isolated areas in Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and in Dera Ghazi Khan District (Punjab Province). The KPK Forest Department considered that the areas of Mardan and Sheikh Buddin were still inhabited by the subspecies. At least 100 animals are thought to live on the Pakistani side of the Safed Koh range (Districts of Kurram and Khyber).
Relationship with the domestic goat
Certain authors have postulated that the markhor is the ancestor of some breeds of domestic goat. The Angora goat has been regarded by some as a direct descendant of the Central Asian Markhor. Charles Darwin postulated that modern goats arose from crossbreeding markhor with wild goats. Evidence for Markhors crossbreeding with domestic goats has been found. One study suggested that 35.7% of captive Markhors in the analysis (ranging from three different zoos) had mitochondrial DNA from domestic goats. Other authors have put forth the possibility of markhor being the ancestor of some Egyptian goat breeds, due to their similar horns, though the lack of an anterior keel on the horns of the markhor belie any close relationship. The Changthangi domestic goat of Ladakh and Tibet may derive from the markhor. The Girgentana goat of Sicily is thought to have been bred from markhor, as is the Bilberry goat of Ireland. The Kashmiri feral herd of about 200 individuals on the Great Orme limestone headland of Wales are derived from a herd maintained at Windsor Great Park belonging to Queen Victoria.
Fecal samples taken from Markhor and domestic goats indicate that there is a serious level of competition for food between the two species. The competition for food between herbivores is believed to have significantly reduced the standing crop of forage in the Himalaya-Karkoram-Hindukush ranges. Domestic livestock have an advantage over wild herbivores since the density of their herds often push their competitors out of the best grazing areas. Decreased forage availability has a negative effect on female fertility.
Humans are the primary predators on markhor. Because markhor inhabit very steep and inaccessible mountainous habitat, several strongholds of markhor populations have been rarely approached by man. Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) have been reported preying upon young markhor. Among the wild carnivores, Himalayan lynx (Felis lynx), leopard cats (Felis bengalensis), snow leopards (Panthera uncia), wolves (Canis lupus), and black bears (Ursus thibetanus) are the main predators of markhor. Because of these threats, the markhor possess keen eyesight and a strong sense of smell to detect nearby predators. Markhor are very aware of their surroundings and are on high alert for predators. They exhibit fast reaction and escape time to predators in exposed areas.
Markhor are potential prey for snow leapords, brown bears, lynx, jackals, and golden eagles. While not directly causing their endangerment, the already small population of markhor is threatened by the close existing predators. Hunting for meat as a means of subsistence or trade in wildlife parts adds to the growing problem for wildlife managers in many countries. Poaching, with its indirect impacts as disturbance, increasing fleeing distances and resulting reduction of effective habitat size, are by far the most important factors threatening the survival of the markhor population. The most important types of poachers seem to be local inhabitants, state border guards, the latter usually relying on local hunting guides, and Afghans, illegally crossing the border. Poaching causes the fragmentation of the population and distribution areas into small islands were the remaining subpopulations are prone to extinction. The markhor is a valued trophy hunting prize for its incredibly rare spiral horns which became a threat to their species. Trophy hunting is when rare species heads are hunted when the hunting is over the carcass is used as food. Foreign trophy hunters had a large demand for the markhor's impressively large horns as a trophy prize. During the 1960s and 1970s the markhor was severely threatened by both foreign trophy hunters and influential Pakistanis. It was not until the 1970s that Pakistan adopted a conservation legislation and developed three types of protected areas. Unfortunately all the measures taken to save the markhor were improperly implemented. The continuing declines of markhor populations finally caught the international community and became a concern.
In British India, markhor were considered to be among the most challenging game species, due to the danger involved in stalking and pursuing them in high, mountainous terrain. According to Arthur Brinckman, in his The Rifle in Cashmere, "a man who is a good walker will never wish for any finer sport than ibex or markhoor shooting". Elliot Roosevelt wrote of how he shot two markhor in 1881, his first on the 8th of July, his second in the 1st of August. Although it is illegal to hunt markhor in Afghanistan, they have been traditionally hunted in Nuristan and Laghman, and this may have intensified during the War in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, hunting markhor is illegal. However recently, as part of a conservation process, expensive hunting licenses are available from the Pakistani government which allow for the hunting of old markhors which are no longer good for breeding purposes. In India, it is illegal to hunt Markhor but they are poached for food and for their horns, which are thought to have medicinal properties. Markhor have also been successfully introduced to private game ranches in Texas. Unlike the auodad, blackbuck, nilgai, ibex, and axis deer, however, markhor have not escaped in sufficient numbers to establish free-range wild populations in Texas.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has classified the markhor as an endangered species, meaning it is in danger of facing extinction in the near future if conservation efforts are not maintained. There have been different estimates as to how many markhors exist but a global estimate put the number at less than 2,500 mature individuals. There are reservations in Tajikistan to protect the markhors. In 1973, two reservations were established. The Dashtijum Strict Reserve (also called the Zapovednik in Russian) offers markhor protect across 20,000 ha. The Dashtijum Reserve (called the Zakasnik in Russian) covers 53,000 ha. Though these reserves exist to protect and conserve the markhor population, the regulations are poorly enforced making poaching common as well as habitat destruction. Although markhors still face ongoing threats, recent studies have shown considerable success with regards to the conservation approach. The approach began in the 1900s when a local hunter was convinced by a hunting tourist to stop poaching markhors. The local hunter established a conservancy that inspired two other local organizations called Morkhur and Muhofiz. The two organizations expect that their conversations will not only protect, but allow them to sustainability use the markhor species. This approach has been very effective compared to the protect lands that lack enforcement and security. In India, markhor is fully protected (Schedule I) species under Jammu and Kashmir’s Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1978.
The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. It was one of the 72 animals featured on the WWF Conservation Coin Collection in 1976. Markhor marionettes are used in the Afghan puppet shows known as buz-baz.
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