The practice of trophy hunting of the Markhor – a magnificent species of the goat family – is an unsavoury one, but conducive in a controlled manner to incentivise the conservation of the animal. At a recent meeting of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) management authority, Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid, suggested that Pakistan request an increase in the quota for trophy hunting of Markhors at the next conference of parties of the international treaty to protect wildlife.

The move comes following reports that the population of Markhors have increased due to community conservation efforts in the country and hence CITES authority has directed representatives and conservators of the provincial forest and wildlife departments to conduct independent surveys before formally requesting to increase the number of trophy Markhors hunted in the country. Currently Pakistan issues 12 permits per year, which are marketed and auctioned by provincial governments for a base price of $40,000. These permits are known to fetch as much as $100,000, an amount that the local community, responsible for the protection of the animal, benefits greatly from.

Found in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), the number of Markhor found in the wild is not known. In order to protect the species from dwindling in number, permits are issued to hunt only very old/mature male Markhors. The older the animals, the bigger are the horns, and the more attractive it is for the hunter. The trophy-hunting model of Pakistan’s Markhor is largely seen as a successful one for the conservation of an endangered indigenous species and has been replicated in countries like Tajikistan as well. Considering that communities put in so much effort to protect wildlife, if they derive benefit from it, the model should be replicated for the protection of endangered species like the Indus Dolphin and the Houbara Bustard.