The National Animal of Pakistan and only a few thousands survive in the wild now. The reasons Markhor faces a very high risk of extinction in the near future include intensive hunting (for trophies, meat and the Asian medicine market), disturbance and loss of habitat due to expanded human settlement, and competition from domestic livestock.
The markhor is a member of the goat family which may weigh up to 110 kg (240 lb). It has unusual spiraling horns which may be straight or flare outward, depending on the subspecies. The markhor occupies arid cliffside habitats in sparsely wooded mountainous regions at altitudes ranging from 700 m (2300′) from November to May up to 4000 m (13,000′) in the summer. In the spring and summer, the markhor mainly grazes on tussocks of grass. When these have dried up it browses on leaves and twigs. The markhor forages 8 – 12 hours daily, and it is usually active all day except for several hours in the middle of the day, when it rests and chews its cud. Years ago, herds of markhor with 100 or more animals were common. By the 1970’s the average herd size was 9, with some as large as 35 (Schaller 1979).
The range of the markhor has historically extended from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikstan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India (Kashmir). Currently its distribution runs from the mountains north of the Amur Darya River in Turkmenistan, east through Afghanistan and Pakistan, just into the extreme northwestern part of India. Within this area, markhor populations are usually very small (
The reasons for the markhor’s decline include intensive hunting (for trophies, meat and the Asian medicine market), disturbance and loss of habitat due to expanded human settlement, and competition from domestic livestock.