Markhor

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Markhor
Markhor Schraubenziege Capra falconeri Zoo Augsburg-02.jpg
Male markhor in captivity at the Augsburg Zoo
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Capra
Species:
C. falconeri [2]
Binomial name
Capra falconeri [2]
(Wagner, 1839)
Subspecies

See text

Capra falconeri map.gif
Capra falconeri

The markhor /ˈmɑːrkɔːr/ (Capra falconeri), is a large Capra species native to Central Asia, Karakoram and the Himalayas. It is listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened since 2015. [1]

Contents

The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan, where it is also known as the screw horn or "screw-horned goat", [3] mārkhor (مارخور) in Pashto and mārkhor (मारख़ोर, مارخور) in Hindustani from Classical Persian. [4]

Description

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). [5] 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. [6] 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. [5] Females are redder in colour, with shorter hair, a short black beard, and are maneless. [7] 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 (63 in) long, and up to 25 cm (10 in) in females. [5] The males have a pungent smell, which surpasses that of the domestic goat. [8]

Behaviour and ecology

Female with young, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Capra falconeri at the Columbus Zoo-2011 07 11 IMG 0786.JPG
Female with young, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Markhor are adapted to mountainous terrain, and can be found between 600 and 3,600 m (2,000 and 11,800 ft) in elevation. They typically inhabit scrub forests made up primarily of oaks (Quercus ilex), pines (Pinus gerardiana), and junipers (Juniperus macropoda). [1] 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. [9] Their alarm call closely resembles the bleating of domestic goats. [5] 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. [7]

Predators

Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) have been reported to prey upon young markhor. Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), snow leopard (Panthera uncia), Himalayan wolves (Canis lupus chanco) and brown bear (Ursus arctos) are the main predators of markhor. [9] [10] 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. In exposed areas, they are quick to spot and flee from predators. [11]

Taxonomy

Markhor in a Japanese zoo Capra falconeri Yumemigasaki Zoo P6269554.jpg
Markhor in a Japanese zoo
Bukharan markhor in captivity at the Los Angeles Zoo Capra falconeri hepteneri.jpg
Bukharan markhor in captivity at the Los Angeles Zoo

Aegoceros (Capra) Falconeri was the scientific name proposed by Johann Andreas Wagner in 1839 based on a female specimen from the Indian Himalayas. [12]

Multiple subspecies have been recognized often based on horn configuration alone but it has been shown that this can vary greatly even within the same population confined to one mountain range. [13]

Astor markhor

The Astor markhor 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 Panjal markhor, which has heavy, flat horns, twisted like a corkscrew. [14]

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. [1]

Bukharan markhor

Although the Bukharan markhor or Tajik markhur [15] (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. [1]

Kabul markhor

The Kabul markhor has horns with a slight corkscrew, as well as a twist. A junior synonym is Capra falconeri jerdoni. [7]

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 poaching. 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). [1]

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. [16] [17] Charles Darwin postulated that modern goats arose from crossbreeding markhor with wild goats. [18] 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. [19] 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 belies any close relationship. [20] The Changthangi domestic goat of Ladakh and Tibet may derive from the markhor. [21] The Girgentana goat of Sicily is thought to have been bred from markhor, [22] as is the Bilberry goat of Ireland. [23] 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. [24]

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 pushes their competitors out of the best grazing areas. Decreased forage availability has a negative effect on female fertility. [25]

Threats

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, is by far the most important factor threatening the survival of the markhor population. [26] 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 fragmentation of the population into small islands where the remaining subpopulations are prone to extinction. [26] The markhor is a valued trophy hunting prize for its incredibly rare spiral horns which became a threat to their species. The continuing declines of markhor populations finally caught the international community and became a concern. [27]

Hunting

Markhor Markhor Horns (5779055412).jpg
Markhor

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. [28] 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". [29] Elliot Roosevelt wrote of how he shot two markhor in 1881, his first on 8 July, his second on 1 August. [30] Although it is illegal to hunt markhor in Afghanistan, they have been traditionally hunted in Nuristan and Laghman Provinces, and this may have intensified during the War in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, hunting markhor is legal 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. [31] 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. [32] Markhor have also been successfully introduced to private game ranches in Texas. Unlike the aoudad, blackbuck, nilgai, ibex, and axis deer, however, markhor have not escaped in sufficient numbers to establish free-range wild populations in Texas.

Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources currently classifies the markhor as a near threatened species, due to a relatively small population (2013 estimate: ~5,800 individuals), the absence of a projected total population decline, and relying on ongoing conservation efforts to keep this population level. [1] 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. [1] [9] 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. [9] In India, the markhor is a fully protected (Schedule I) species under Jammu and Kashmir's Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1978. [32]

Postal Stamp of Pakistan's National Animal,Markhor, in 2001 Postal Stamp of Pakistan's National Animal Markhor (2001).jpg
Postal Stamp of Pakistan's National Animal,Markhor, in 2001

In culture

The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. [33] It was one of the 72 animals featured on the World Wide Fund for Nature Conservation Coin Collection in 1976. Markhor marionettes are used in the Afghan puppet shows known as buz-baz . The markhor has also been mentioned in a Pakistani computer-animated film known as Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor . [34]

In 2018, Pakistan's flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines adopted the markhor on its new revised livery. The Markhor is also present on the logo of the Inter-Services Intelligence.

Etymology

The name is thought to be derived from Persian — a conjunction of mâr ( مار , "snake, serpent") and the suffix khor ( خور , "-eater"), interpreted to represent the animal's alleged ability to kill snakes, or as a reference to its corkscrew-like horns, which are somewhat reminiscent of coiling snakes. [5]

In folklore the markhor is known to kill, or literally, eat serpent. 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 the poison from snakebites. [35]

Local names

Related Research Articles

Caprinae

The subfamily Caprinae is part of the ruminant family Bovidae, and consists of mostly medium-sized bovids. A member of this subfamily is called a caprine, or, more informally, a goat-antelope; however, this term "goat-antelope" does not mean that these animals are true antelopes: a true antelope is a bovid with a cervid-like or antilocaprid-like morphology.

Ibex Type of mammal (wild mountain goat)

An ibex is any of several species of wild mountain goat , distinguished by the male's large recurved horns, which are transversely ridged in front. Ibex are found in Eurasia, North Africa, and East Africa. The name ibex comes from Latin, borrowed from Iberian or Aquitanian, akin to Old Spanish bezerro "bull", modern Spanish becerro "yearling". Ranging in height from 27 to 43 inches and weighing 200 to 270 pounds, ibex can live 20 years. Two closely related varieties of goats found in the wild are not usually called ibex: the markhor and the feral goat.

Alpine ibex

The Alpine ibex, also known as the steinbock, bouquetin, or simply ibex, is a species of wild goat that lives in the mountains of the European Alps. It is a sexually dimorphic species with larger males that carry larger, curved horns. Their coat colour is typically brownish grey. Alpine ibex tend to live in steep, rough terrain near the snow line. They are also social, although adult males and females segregate for most of the year, coming together only to mate. Four distinct groups exist; adult male groups, female-offspring groups, groups of young individuals, and mixed-sex groups.

<i>Capra</i> (genus)

Capra is a genus of mammals, the goats, composed of up to nine species, including the wild goat, the markhor, and several species known as ibexes. The domestic goat is a domesticated subspecies of the wild goat. Evidence of goat domestication dates back more than 8,500 years.

Wild goat Species of mammal

The wild goat is a wild goat species, inhabiting forests, shrublands and rocky areas ranging from Turkey and the Caucasus in the west to Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east. It has been listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List and is threatened by destruction and degradation of habitat.

Nubian ibex Species of mammal

The Nubian ibex is a desert-dwelling goat species found in mountainous areas of northern and northeast Africa, and the Middle East. Its range is within Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. It is historically considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine ibex, but is increasingly considered a specifically distinct species. The wild population is estimated at 1,200 individuals.

Environmental issues in Afghanistan

Environmental issues in Afghanistan predate the political turmoil of the past few decades. Forests and wellands have been depleted by centuries of grazing and farming, practices which have only increased with modern population growth. In Afghanistan, environmental conservation and economic concerns are not at odds; with 80% of the population dependent on herding or farming, the welfare of the environment is critical to the economic welfare of the people. In 2007, the World Health Organization released a report ranking Afghanistan as the lowest among non-African nations in deaths from environmental hazards.

Marco Polo sheep

The Marco Polo sheep is a subspecies of argali sheep, named after Marco Polo. Their habitat is the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Marco Polo sheep are distinguishable mostly by their large size and spiraling horns. Their conservation status is "near threatened" and efforts have been made to protect their numbers and keep them from commercial hunting. It has also been suggested that crossing them with domestic sheep could have agricultural benefits.

The Naltar Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area located in the Naltar Valley near Nomal, in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

Walia ibex

The walia ibex is an endangered species of ibex. It is sometimes considered a subspecies of the Alpine ibex. Threats against the species include habitat loss, poaching, and restricted range; only about 500 individuals survived in the mountains of Ethiopia, concentrated in the Semien Mountains, largely due to past poaching and habitat depletion. If the population were to increase, the surrounding mountain habitat would be sufficient to sustain only 2,000 ibex. The adult walia ibex's only known wild predator is the hyena. However, young ibex are often hunted by a variety of fox and cat species. The ibex are members of the goat family, and the walia ibex is the southernmost of today's ibexes. In the late 1990s, the walia ibex went from endangered to critically endangered due to the declining population. The walia ibex is also known as the Abyssinian ibex.

Afghanistan has long been known for diverse wildlife. Many of the larger mammals in the country are categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as globally threatened. These include the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, Siberian musk deer, markhor, urial, and the Asiatic black bear. Other species of interest are the ibex, the gray wolf, and the brown bear, striped hyenas, and numerous bird of prey species. Most of the Marco Polo sheep and ibex are being poached for food, whereas wolves, snow leopards and bears are being killed for damage prevention.

Siberian ibex

The Siberian ibex, also known as the Altai ibex or Gobi ibex, is a species of ibex that lives in central Asia. It has traditionally been treated as a subspecies of the Alpine ibex, and whether it is specifically distinct from other ibex is still not entirely clear. It is the longest and heaviest member of the genus Capra, though its shoulder height is surpassed by the markhor.

Chitral National Park

Chitral Gol National Park is one of the National Parks of Pakistan. It is located in Chitral District in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan beside the Chitral River, at a distance of two hours drive from Chitral town. The park is also known as Chitral National Park.

Snow leopard

The snow leopard, also known as the ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because the global population is estimated to number less than 10,000 mature individuals and is expected to decline about 10% by 2040. It is threatened by poaching and habitat destruction following infrastructural developments. It inhabits alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m, ranging from eastern Afghanistan, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, to southern Siberia, Mongolia, and western China. In the countries in the northern part of its range, it also lives at lower elevations.

The Astor markhor or flare-horned markhor is a subspecies of the markhor, native to Kashmir and northern Pakistan. To the west it reaches the easternmost parts of Afghanistan. The range of the Astor markhor is very scattered. At one time considered an "endangered species", conservation efforts have had some success and the largest subpopulation in Pakistan may now exceed 1000 individuals. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its status as "near-threatened".

Bukharan markhor

The Bukharan markhor, or Tadjik markhor is an endangered goat-antelope, native to Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, possibly also Afghanistan. Today it is found in few scattered populations, for example in Kugitang Nature Reserve in easternmost Turkmenistan. The population of the Bukharan markhor is at around 5,750 animals.

The Kabul markhor or straight-horned markhor(Capra falconeri megaceros) is an endangered goat-antelope native to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Girgentana Italian breed of goat

The Girgentana is an Italian breed of domestic goat indigenous to the province of Agrigento, in the southern part of the Mediterranean island of Sicily. The name of the breed derives from Girgenti, the name of Agrigento in local Sicilian language. There were in the past more than 30,000 head in the hills and coastal zone of the province. Today, however, this breed is in danger of disappearance.

Pyrenean ibex

The Pyrenean ibex, Aragonese and Spanish common name bucardo, Catalan common name herc and French common name bouquetin was one of the four subspecies of the Iberian ibex or Iberian wild goat, a species endemic to the Pyrenees. Pyrenean ibex were most common in the Cantabrian Mountains, Southern France, and the northern Pyrenees. This species was common during the Holocene and Upper Pleistocene, during which their morphology, primarily some skulls, of the Pyrenean ibex was found to be larger than other Capra subspecies in southwestern Europe from the same time.

Hindu Kush alpine meadow Ecoregion primarily in Afghanistan

The Hindu Kush alpine meadow ecoregion covers a portion of the Hindu Kush Mountain Range in northern Afghanistan and a small area in northern Pakistan. Most of the terrain is between 3,000 and 4,000 meters in elevation. This portion of the Hindu Kush is very mountainous, with steep slopes. About half of the territory is bare rock or gravely soils with sparse vegetation. The remainder supports herbaceous cover of grasses and cushion plants. Human habitation is scarce and follows the river courses in the valleys.

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