Kashmir’s Spiral-horned Markhor Goat In Peril

Kashmir’s Spiral-horned Markhor Goat In Peril

10 May 2012
Deccan Herald


Srinagar: The magnificent spiral-horned Markhor, the largest member of the goat family, has for centuries inhabited the high mountains of Kashmir. But human greed and interference have placed this graceful animal on the ‘critically endangered’ list with barely 350 remaining. Which is why the notification of the Tatakuti Wildlife Sanctuary near Shopian in south Kashmir by the Jammu and Kashmir government on April 27 has come as a big boost to conservationists fighting for the very survival of the Markhor. Tatakuti is the latest addition to the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks already declared to conserve the Pir Panjal or Kashmir Markhor. The Pir Panjal Markhor is one of five distinct species found in Asia. It is found only in Jammu and Kashmir. “They were once distributed from Banihal, through the Pir Panjal range, crossing the Jhelum river over to the Kajinag and Shamsabari ranges, into Gurez and then into Pakistan-administered Kashmir. But the present Markhor population is very small and unconnected,” Yash Veer Bhatnagar, senior scientist for the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation, said. Most experts maintain that barely 350 of this species remain. “As an informed guess, I will put the population at 300-400, with close to 250 being in Kajinag itself,” says Bhatnagar. Though the Markhor is included in the Indian (Schedule 1) and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Acts, the threat against its survival remain very much in place. Insurgency, cross-border firing, competition with livestock for grazing ground, poaching for its antlers as trophy and for its meat, fragmentation of habitat due to LoC fencing, lack of awareness and developmental projects, all threaten the Markhor.