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Conservation of Tajik markhor (Capra falconeri heptneri) and urial (Ovis vignei) in Tajikistan and adjacent Afghanistan

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Galemys 22 (nº especial): 407-419, 2010
ISSN: 1137-8700
407
CONSERVATION OF TAJIK MARKHOR
(Capra falconeri heptneri) AND URIAL (Ovis vignei)
IN TAJIKISTAN AND ADJACENT AFGHANISTAN
STEFAN MICHEL
77 Lenin Street, Khorog, 736000 GBAO, Tajikistan.
(st-michel@gmx.de)
ABSTRACT
In 2008 the team of the project “Community based conservation and management of
mountain ungulates in Tajikistan” started work on assessment of population status and support
of conservation activities for Tajik markhor (Capra falconeri heptneri) and urial (Ovis vignei) in
southern Tajikistan. The distribution range of markhor is limited to an area of less than 1,500
km² in the districts Darvaz and Shuroabad along the Afghan border. The major part of the
population exists in two private conservancies (each > 100) and in the strict state nature reserve
Dashtijum. Outside these areas, markhor are almost extinct due to intensive poaching. Adjacent
to the conservancy in Darvaz, markhor inhabits the Afghan banks of Pyanj River in small
numbers but is affected by poaching. Effective protection of markhor in Tajikistan is provided
by private conservancies. Although the Bukhara urial O. v. bochariensis in Soviet times was
sufficiently numerous to be used for commercial hunting, nowadays only isolated groups of few
dozens are scattered over the mountains of south-western Tajikistan (Surkhkuh, Aktau, Karatau,
Hazratishoh). Their habitats are intensively used for livestock grazing and poaching is prevalent.
So far neither protected areas nor private conservancies provide for the conservation and without
urgent measures local or complete extinction is likely. In the Wakhan in Tajikistan (southern
Pamirs) the urial is almost extinct. In 2008 we found only a single male, habituated to livestock,
and local hunters reported the lack of observations since 2005. In the Wakhan in Afghanistan
(northern Hindukush) our assessments in 2008 and 2009 showed that a population (>100)
survives there. The urial population in the Wakhan seems to be linked to northern Pakistan. With
support of a donor funded project in Tajikistan first community based and private initiatives are
evolving for protection and management of urial, markhor and other species. Driven by growing
awareness and hopes for income from wildlife management these initiatives for becoming
sustainable will likely rely on benefits from the use of high value trophy animals. The population
numbers of markhor would allow restricted trophy hunting for financing of protection efforts
and local communities’ development needs. Tajikistan so far is not a member of CITES which,
together with barriers at the national legislation and lack of appropriate benefit sharing, prevents
legal sustainable use of the species. Thus there is little incentive for their conservation.
Key words: population status, distribution, threats, protection.
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Galemys 22 (nº especial), 2010
RESUMEN
Conservación del markhor Capra falconeri y el urial Ovis vignei en Tayikistán
y zonas colindantes de Afganistán
En el año 2008, el equipo del Proyecto “Conservación y manejo de los ungulados de
montaña en Tajikistan empezó a trabajar en la evaluación del estado de la población y las
actividades de conservación del markhor de Bukharan C. f. heptneri y del urial Ovis vignei en el
sur de Tayikistán. El área de distribución del markhor está limitada a menos de 1.500 km
2
en
los distritos de Darvaz y Shuroabad en la frontera afgana. La mayor parte de la población existe
en dos reservas privadas (sendas >100) y en la Reserva Natural estatal de Dashtijum. El markhor
está prácticamente extinguido fuera de estas áreas debido a la caza furtiva. Colindante con la
reserva de Darvaz, se encuentran unos pocos ejemplares de markhor en las orillas afganas del Río
Pyanj pero aquí también es victima de la caza furtiva. En Tayikistán, son las reservas privadas
que proporcionan una protección eficaz del markhor. El nivel de sus poblaciones permitiría la
caza deportiva limitada con el fin de financiar el trabajo de conservación y las necesidades de
desarrollo de las comunidades locales. Durante la época soviética, el urial O. v. bochariensis era tan
numeroso que se utilizaba para caza comercial pero actualmente sólo existen unos pocos grupos
aislados, compuestos de unas docenas de ejemplares y diseminados por las montañas del sudoeste
de Tayikistán (Surkhkuh, Aktau, Karatau, Hazratishoh). Sus hábitats se utilizan intensivamente
para el pastoreo de ganado y prevalece la caza furtiva. Hasta ahora, ni las áreas protegidas ni
las reservas privadas tienen prevista la conservación de al menos una población local y si no
se adoptan medidas urgentes, es probable que la especie se extinga localmente o totalmente.
En el corredor de Wakhan en Tayikistán (en el sur de los Pamirs), el urial prácticamente se
ha extinguido. En el año 2008, sólo se avistó a un macho, acostumbrado al ganado, y según
los cazadores locales, no se han observado ejemplares desde el año 2005. En el Wakhan de
Afganistán (el Hindukush norte), los estudios realizados en los años 2008 y 2009 encontraron
una población superviviente viable (>100); allí la población local, salvo pocas excepciones, no
practica la caza furtiva. Aparentemente la población de urial en el Wakhal está relacionada con
el norte de Pakistán, por lo que podría pertenecer a la especie arkhar O. v. vignei. En Tayikistán,
ya se están desarrollando las primeras iniciativas privadas y comunitarias para la protección del
urial, markhor y otras especies, con el apoyo de un proyecto financiado por donantes. La mayor
concienciación y las expectativas de ingresos por la gestión de la vida silvestre van a ser factores
que impulsen estas iniciativas orientadas a la sostenibilidad y que probablemente tengan que
depender de los beneficios derivados de la utilización de animales con alto valor como trofeos de
caza. Las barreras legales y la falta de una distribución apropiada de beneficios van a suponer un
reto para estas iniciativas. Tayikistán todavía no pertenece a CITES. Este hecho, añadido a las
barreras que supone la legislación nacional, impide un uso sostenible legal de la especie; por lo
tanto, no hay mucho incentivo para su conservación.
Palabras claves: estatus de población, markhor, urial, distribución, Afganistán, Tayikistán,
protección.
Markhor and urial in Tajikistan
409
INTRODUCTION
The Tajik markhor (Capra falconeri heptneri) and the urial (Ovis vignei) are
among the rarest ungulate species in Central Asia and were accordingly included
in the Red Book of the Tajik SSR (Abdusalyamov 1988). In the IUCN Red List,
markhor (Valdez 2008a) and urial (Valdez 2008b) have the status of “Endangered”
and “Vulnerablerespectively. Markhor is included in CITES Appendix I whereas
urial in general is included in Appendix II, but Ladakh urial (Ovis vignei vignei
)
is listed in Appendix I. Thus both species enjoy a high level of formal protection.
However, according to numerous oral reports, the conservation situation in
Tajikistan is considered critical. Since Tsalkin (1951) and Sapozhnikov (1976),
who provided a detailed report on distribution, population status, and biology
of urial in Tajikistan little new research has been conducted. Fedosenko (2002)
in his monograph on urial in Tajikistan mainly referred to older sources. With
the exception of Abdusalyamov (1988) virtually no recent literature or research
reports have been produced on markhor since the work of Heptner et al. (1961).
Although information from local scientists has been contradictory, most fear that
extinction of markhor in Tajikistan could be imminent. Illegal trophy hunts of
both species conducted by foreigners have been reported (Traffic International,
2009; personal communication with diverse anonymous sources). The status of
both species requires urgent measures for protection (Shackleton 1997).
With this as background, the Tajik non-governmental organization (NGO)
“Nature Protection Team” in April 2008 started a project entitled “Community
based conservation and management of mountain ungulates in Tajikistanaimed
at involving local people in protection and use of the species for stimulating
conservation efforts.
STUDY AREAS AND METHODS
We started work on assessment of population status and support of
conservation activities for Tajik markhor C. f. heptneri and urial Ovis vignei in
southern Tajikistan and adjacent areas of Afghanistan in May 2008. We selected
the survey areas based on preliminary information obtained from scientists,
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Galemys 22 (nº especial), 2010
hunters, collaborators of state agencies in charge of nature protection and
forestry. Surveys were conducted during different seasons, preferably spring and
autumn:
- May 2008: Southern edge of Darvaz Range
- June/July 2008: Mountain ranges Surkhkuh, Aktau (west of Vaksh River),
Pyanj Karatau, Hazratishoh;
- July 2008: Wakhan corridor (Tajikistan);
- November 2008 and April/May 2009: Wakhan corridor (Afghanistan);
- November/December 2008, March/April and June/July 2009: Southern
edges of Darvaz Range, Hazratishoh Range;
- Additionally occasional observations, made in the frame of brief visits or
transit, were considered.
The territories were passed by walking, in exceptional cases on horseback or
by car (e.g., Afghan Wakhan). Teams recorded each point at which they searched
for animals using a GPS. The teams used spotting scopes as well as binoculars
for scanning the slopes for animals. Use of spotting scopes allowed detection
and age-sex classification of animals at distances not exceeding 3 km, depending
on light conditions, habitat and behaviour. Teams estimated the distance of the
animals from the point at which they were first detected using range-finder;
distances > about 1,500 m were roughly estimated without the rangefinder. For
each animal group, the direction from the observation point was determined
by using a compass. Teams also recorded the total number, and sex and ages of
all individuals within each group. All observation points were entered in to a
GIS, the total area searched for animals was drawn and estimated. The scale and
detail of available maps did not allow us to correct for areas hidden from us by
topographic obstructions using a view shed analysis; thus the size of search areas
might have been slightly overestimated. Based on the direction and distance
from the observation points the approximate locations of the observed groups
were digitized on the map. We considered whether observations were duplicates
of animal groups previously recorded, on the basis of location, group size and
Markhor and urial in Tajikistan
411
composition and recognizable animals. Survey teams also recorded horns, skulls,
and relevant oral information. Information on poaching was asked from local
people in the frame of community workshops and individual talks.
RESULTS
Distribution area of Tajik markhor
Tajikistan: Based on our survey, Abdusalyamov (1988) and unpublished
information from local scientists (e.g. A.Saidov, presentation in October 2009)
the distribution range of markhor is limited to an area of less than 1,500 km²
in the districts Darvaz (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, GBAO) and
Shuroabad (Khatlon Region) along the Afghan border. Geographically the
distribution range of Heptners markhor in Tajikistan includes the southern edge
of the Darvaz Range, the mid part and the southern edge of the Hazratishoh
Range and the mountains Kuhi pasi Parvor. The area belongs to two private
conservancies, two forestry enterprises and the strict protected area (zapovednik)
“Dashtijum”.
The current distribution area in Afghanistan is not known (A. Simms, Wildlife
Conservation Society, personal communication April 2009), but anecdotal
information from local people on both sides of the border confirmed that, as of
2008, markhor still inhabited the Darvaz district of Badakhshan province at the
left bank of Pyanj River in the region of Qala-e Kuf village (opposite conservancy
“M-Sayed”). Collaborators of the conservancy even observed one male markhor
crossing the river, thus providing evidence about the transboundary characteristic
of the population.
Population status of markhor
The observations by project collaborators (Table 1) provide an index of
minimum numbers of markhor in certain areas. Because surveys were made from
deliberately chosen points these data do not allow an estimate of total population
numbers.
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Galemys 22 (nº especial), 2010
TABLE 1
Survey results on markhor.
Location Time Survey area size Survey effort
No. of markhor
observed
Conservancy “M-Sayed”
(Darvaz Range)
May 2008
1,200 ha Three days 39
November 2008
695 ha Six days 55
March 2009 Not determined Four days
83
July 2009 Not determined Three days
41
Conservancy “Markhur”
(southern Hazratishoh
Range)
April 2009
< 1500 ha Two days 115
July 2009 Not determined Two days
35
Darvaz Range south of
“M-Sayed
December 2008
2,475 ha Four days 4
Hazratishoh Range west
of village the Khirmanjo
July 2009 Not determined One day
23
These numbers showed the high variation of counts in relation to search
effort as well as in relation to the size of surveyed area. The highest and most
consistently reported numbers of markhor were observed in the private
conservancies. Observations of larger groups outside these conservancies were
exceptions.
Managers of the private conservancies and local people, without conducting
methodically elaborated monitoring, believed the following population numbers
in areas managed by them:
- Conservancy M-Sayed in Darvaz Range, 3,740 ha (Conservancy manager D.
Mulloyorov, personal communication July 2009) 200 markhor, among them
40 trophy size males, trend: increasing.
- Conservancy Markhur southern Hazratishoh Range, 2,000 ha + adjacent
areas (Conservancy manager and former director of State Strict Reserve
Markhor and urial in Tajikistan
413
Dashtijum I. Ikromov, personal communication April 2009) 150 markhor,
15 trophy size males, trend: increasing; Mr. Ikromov believed that in 2003
this area only had 23 animals;
- State Strict Reserve Dashtijum 19,700 ha (I. Ikromov, personal communication
July 2009) >100 markhor, trend: declining, Mr. Ikromov believed that few
years ago still 300 – 400 lived in this area;
- Southern Hazratishoh (local hunters personal communication July 2009)
< 150 markhor 2009, declining; the local hunters stated in a workshop
that until 1990 thousands” of markhor lived in the area.
Distribution areas and population status of Bukhara urial
in SW-Tajikistan
During our field work we observed Bukhara urials or got information about
there actual presence in the Surkhkuh Range, in the Babatag and Aktau Ranges
west of Kofarnihon River, in the Pyanj Karatau Range and in the Hazratishoh
Range. In all mentioned mountain ranges the area where we actually observed
urials or got reports about there presence made up only a small proportion of
the entire suitable habitat. For much larger areas local people reported there
extirpation over the last twenty years.
In the Surkhkuh Range during June 2008 despite intensive search we did
not see any urials alive. The survey team found one pair of horns, and received
reports from several local people that urial were present in remoter areas. In
June 2008 in the Aktau Mountains we observed 11 urials at 4,000 ha survey
area. The highest numbers of urials our team observed in the Pyanj Karatau
Range during June 2008 48 specimens at 11,300 ha survey area. In the
southern part of the Hazratishoh Range in July 2008 we observed 12 urials at
1,100 ha survey area and in December 2008 at same site 16 animals at 3,772
ha survey area. In the mid part of Hazratishoh Range a local hunter in July
2009 reported that he observed three Bukhara urial, but obviously there is now
neither a permanent population left over nor significant migration takes place
any longer.
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Galemys 22 (nº especial), 2010
Distribution areas and population status of urial in the Wakhan
(E-Tajikistan, NE-Afghanistan)
In July 2008, our teams spent 20 observation days surveying an area of
25,000 ha in those areas of the Tajikistan part of the Wakhan where urials
were most recently recorded (2002/2003). Our teams documented no urials.
In October 2008 the project team observed one male habituated to livestock.
This animal was repeatedly reported until October 2009 (A. Gaude, personal
communication and photograph) and has been protected by the local community
where it is known to be alive as of since summer 2005. All over the Tajikistan
part of Wakhan local hunters in 2008 and 2009 reported the lack of observations
since 2005. Horns found at holy sites are decades old.
In the Afghanistan part of the Wakhan our team observed urials at various
sites between Ptur, close to Sulton Ishkashim in the West, and Baroghil Pass in
the East. Trustworthy reports by Afghan and Pakistani hunters interviewed by
our team in Sarhad-e Baroghil about urial observations in upper Yarkhun Valley,
just beyond the Hindukush Range, suggest a continuous distribution range of
urial from the Wakhan via Baroghil Pass into Northern Pakistan (NWFP).
Our survey team in Afghanistan Wakhan in November 2008 saw 26 urials
at 18,300 ha within four days. During April/May 2009 we observed 78 urials
at 21,200 ha within ten days. In July 2009 additional 8 urials were observed in
Afghanistan from the Tajik side of the border. The team got numerous reports
about observations; and skulls, horns and hides were presented to the team (most
recent kills November 2008 and March 2009).
The population structure of urial in the Afghan Wakhan in spring-
summer 2009 showed a high percentage of males (36%, among them adults
of 4 and more years age 24%) and in April/May yearlings (i.e. animals born
in spring 2008) per female ratio of 0.97, indicating high reproductive success
and high survival rate of lambs. The size of the herds varied between one and
16 (x= 6.33).
Markhor and urial in Tajikistan
415
DISCUSSION
Threats to markhor
The assessment of the importance of different threatening factors by
various stakeholders naturally varies depending on their respective interests.
Interviewed government officials tended to neglect the significance of poaching.
Our observations and reports by local people all over the markhor distribution
range show that without doubt poaching together 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. In June 2009, Tajik border
guards together with rangers of the conservancy “Markhor” and Dashtijum
Strict reserve found a camp of Afghan poachers with more than 100 markhor
skins and about 40 urial skins. In fact neither the protected areas administration
nor the state forest enterprises are able to combat poaching effectively, regardless
of whether poachers are well known locals, border troops or government officials
nor if they are heavily armed Afghan intruders.
Poaching causes the fragmentation of the population and distribution areas
into small islands were the remaining subpopulations are prone to extirpation.
The currently ongoing construction of the road Dushanbe-Khorog passing
some key habitat has little impact on the markhor. Due to the high respect the
manager of the private conservancy enjoys, no cases of poaching by construction
workers were reported. The construction work itself was largely ignored by the
animals which could be seen few dozen meters above working heavy machinery.
After finalization of the road there will be a risk of traffic accidents as in some
places markhor cross the road for approaching the Pyanj River for drinking, and
poachers may get easier access to the key habitats.
Threats to urial
In SW-Tajikistan poaching for meat by local people and locally by Afghans is
acutely threatening the survival of the species. During Soviet times according to
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Galemys 22 (nº especial), 2010
local hunters hundreds of Bukhara urials were killed for commercial meat supply.
This fact still nowadays influences on the perception of the urial as free meat by
many locals and, in contrast to the always highly valued markhor, the status of the
urial in local awareness is much lower. Urial habitat is in many areas intensively
used for grazing by livestock and cutting of shrubs for fuel wood, in some areas
habitats are converted to agricultural fields. Thus habitat degradation further
weakens the already fragmented population which is at most sites at critical low
numbers, making extirpation likely. The construction of a road crossing urial
migration routes at Hazratishoh range during the 1980s may have contributed to
habitat fragmentation but is unlikely still as much a limiting factor as perceived
by many local hunters. Due to the lack of any effectively working protected areas
or private/community conservancies containing urial, there are no areas without
pressure from poachers and/or livestock competition.
In the Afghan Wakhan, local people with few exceptions seem to abstain from
poaching urial and ibex. The few local hunters who, despite the official hunting
ban, are still active claim to hunt sustainably, i.e. stated quite clear ideas about
urial and ibex numbers in the areas where they hunt and about the respective
possible take off. High livestock numbers in the Afghan Wakhan and heavily
grazed pasture vegetation make forage competition with livestock likely, but little
is known regarding how significant this is. Conditions of urials observed and
high ratio of yearlings per female suggest that urial under current circumstances
is not too much affected by forage competition.
Management implications
The total population of markhor in Tajikistan likely consists of at least
350 500 animals. The populations in two private conservancies are self-
sustaining and would allow sustainable trophy hunting. In the other parts of
the distribution range, conservation measures are urgently needed. For urial,
currently no statement about population numbers is possible. Clearly, there has
taken place a sharp decline in population numbers over the last few decades and
a fragmentation into smallest subpopulations. Thus urial in Tajikistan is on the
brink of extirpation. An urial population (>100) survives in Afghan Wakhan, but
Markhor and urial in Tajikistan
417
in the Wakhan of Tajikistan, the population is probably not self-sustaining. The
better conditions of the Afghan urial population and the interest of local people
as well as state authorities at the Tajik side provide a potential for re-introduction
there, using animals from the Afghan part of Wakhan. This might be as well
justified by the need for a reserve population. The connection of the distribution
area to Northern Pakistan makes it possible that the urials of Wakhan belong to
the Ladakh urial Ovis vignei vignei (Michel 2009).
Thus far, large donor-funded conservation projects have not demonstrated
tangible benefits to urial and markhor populations. Only the activities for
community involvement in conservation implemented by (Wildlife Conservation
Society WCS) in the Afghan Wakhan corridor have considerably increased the
awareness of the local Wakhi population about conservation needs and legal
requirements and thus contributed to the reduction of hunting. Protected areas
and the listing in the Red Book are not effective actions as long as restrictions
cannot be enforced. Under this situation, the best chance for survival and
rehabilitation of markhor and urial populations in Tajikistan is involving private
conservancies, community initiatives and local hunters into the protection of
these species, with the prospect of future participation in their sustainable use.
The two private conservancies, despite still lacking opportunities for legal trophy
hunts on markhor, have shown success and confirm the need for assigning clear
rights and responsibilities to wildlife resources. Awareness about conservation
requirements and hopes for income from wildlife management are growing
among local informal hunters. The sustainability of any commitment will rely
on benefits from sustainable use of high value trophy animals. So far however,
legal barriers and lack of appropriate benefit sharing act as impediments to
conservation and sustainable use.
Thus the most urgently needed measure is to secure the assignment of
long-term user rights to local community based institutions formed by people
interested in protection and sustainable use of these species. For an initial
period, these groups will need outside support to invest in equipment, and some
compensation of their efforts. However, because a subsidized system cannot
be sustainable and cannot provide direct incentives for protection and proper
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Galemys 22 (nº especial), 2010
management, opportunities are needed for legal hunting tourism and import of
trophies by clients as soon as possible. For markhor, Tajikistan must become a
member of CITES, and a special decision is required by CITES and importing
countries that would allow the import of a limited number of markhor trophies
from well-managed conservancies within Tajikistan. Transparent quota setting
and allocation as well as adequate benefit sharing must be established, considering
the needs of conservancy managers and of local community development.
Transboundary cooperation with partners in Afghanistan and improvement of
border security in critical areas are further urgent conservation needs.
A
CKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The project is financially supported by the Zoological Society for the Conservation of
Species and Populations (Zoologische Gesellschaft für Arten- und Populationsschutz, ZGAP,
Germany), the Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM, Germany), and by
the Regional Programme “Sustainable Use of Natural Resources in Central Asiaof the German
Technical Cooperation (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, GTZ, Germany). The
project cooperates closely with the Institute for Zoology and Parasitology and the Pamir Biological
Institute (Director Ogonazar Aknazarov) of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan
(Director Abdusattor Saidov), as well as with the state agencies in charge of nature protection.
I thank all who participated in the presented work: Munavvar Alidodov (Khorog, Pamir
Biological Institute), Zayniddin Amirov (Institute for Zoology and Parasitology), Vladimir
Shakula (Kazakhstan), Ahmet Umetbekov (Kyrgyzstan) and Dilshoda Yakubova (Dushanbe).
Tobias Kraudzun, Free University Berlin provided GIS support.
Without the engagement of the local initiatives who try to preserve markhor and urial this
work would not have been possible and the future of both species would be even more uncertain:
Iskandar Ikromov and the team of “Markhur”, Davlatkhon Mulloyorov and the team of “M-
Sayed”, Haji Ismoil Fayzov and the group “Muhofiz”, WCS-team and community rangers in the
Afghan Wakhan, especially Said Akhmadshah from Dogor Gunt, Boymamad valadi Chorshanbe
from Wazid , Pir Shah Lyangar from Kozideh and Pir Ismoil Shoh from Qala-i Panja.
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Tsalkin V.I. 1951. Gornye barany Evropy i Azii.(Wild sheep of Europe and Asia) 343 p.
Valdez R. 2008a. Capra falconeri. In: IUCN 2009, IUCN Red List of Threatened
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... Markhor are among the rarest wild ungulates in Central Asia (Michel 2010). The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, and three subspecies C. f. falconeri, C. f. heptneri, and C. f. megaceros have been recognized globally (Michel & Michel 2015). ...
... The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, and three subspecies C. f. falconeri, C. f. heptneri, and C. f. megaceros have been recognized globally (Michel & Michel 2015). Markhor distribution extends over six countries, including Tajikistan west of the Amu Darya River and in northern Afghanistan (Michel 2010;Michel et al. 2015). It is thought that all three subspecies of markhor occur in Afghanistan, distributed in the north and northeastern parts of the country (Petocz 1972;Hassinger 1973;Habibi 2003;Michel & Michel 2015). ...
... It is thought that all three subspecies of markhor occur in Afghanistan, distributed in the north and northeastern parts of the country (Petocz 1972;Hassinger 1973;Habibi 2003;Michel & Michel 2015). Although markhor distribution is claimed to cover northern Badakhshan Province and western Darwaz region (Hassinger 1973;Habibi 2003;Michel 2010), we were only able to find two documented records of markhor in Afghanistan, both in the northeast (Hassinger 1973;Stevens et al. 2011), indicating that the distribution of markhor in Afghanistan is still unclear. ...
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In Asia, markhor Capra falconeri and Siberian ibex Capra sibirica occur in six and eleven countries respectively, and both species have been reported in Afghanistan. However, few wildlife studies in Afghanistan have been made in recent years and the current distribution of markhor and ibex is largely unknown. We conducted field surveys in northern Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan in July-October 2011, and documented the presence of markhor and ibex there for the first time. We made direct observations of markhor in Shahr-e Buzurg District and the Darwaz region, and collected indirect field evidence and community reports of markhor and ibex. The strip of land along the Amu Darya River from western Darwaz to Shahr-e Buzurg district through Khawahan and Raghistan districts should be a priority site for future markhor and ibex conservation in Afghanistan. If protection measures are taken, this area along with the adjacent protected area in Tajikistan, could act as valuable and viable refuge for sustaining markhor and other wild species that inhabit the region.
... There appear to have been increases in the areas managed by the M-Sayod and Morkhur conservancies. The manager of Morkhur noted that he believed there were only 23 markhor in the conservancy area in 2003 (Michel, 2010). The increase in the number of markhor in the M-Sayod area has caused a dispersion of markhor into adjacent areas. ...
... Observations north of Zighar indicate that markhor could extend their distribution area to the north if protection and habitat preservation are ensured. Reports of poaching incidents combined with information from local sources suggest that the trend in Dashtijum Strict Reserve is less positive (Michel, 2010). However, our limited survey of Dashtijum Strict Reserve was insufficient to assess fully the population size and trend in this area. ...
... In June 2009 Tajik border guards and rangers of the Morkhur conservancy and Dashtijum Strict Reserve found a camp of Afghan poachers with . 100 markhor skins and c. 40 urial skins (Michel, 2010). During the 2012 surveys, Afghans were present in Dashtijum Strict Reserve and its surroundings. ...
Article
Heptner's markhor Capra falconeri heptneri is an Endangered wild goat occurring in disjunct populations in southern Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Surveys to determine the total population in Tajikistan were conducted during February–April 2012. A total of 1,018 animals were observed. In most areas, which include state protected areas and family- and community-based conservancies, markhor populations are stable or increasing. Threats include illegal hunting, habitat degradation, competition with livestock and disease transmission. To motivate conservancies economically to protect markhor populations, trophy hunting should be permitted to accommodate the sustainable use of markhor, with revenues distributed in a transparent and equitably shared manner.
... Markhor and other species are continuously hunted for meat and daily several dozen donkey-loads of fuel wood are removed from the protected areas. Since 2008 at least 150 markhor were illegally hunted inside the protected areas by Afghan and Tajik poachers and border guards (Michel 2010; oral information by local people). In one "strictly protected area" alone over 100 skins were impounded. ...
... However, the opinions of scientists searching for study grants from foreign donors are sometimes biased. During our first assessments in 2008, we observed 39 markhor in that unprotected area (Michel 2010), and in February 2011 our team recorded 226 individuals. In March 2011, within only two days, we saw 120 markhor there with the two largest herds consisting of 34 animals each. ...
... Markhor goats (Capra falconeri) inhabit semiarid, mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, India, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (22-418N, 59-798E). 20,33,51,60 Since 1994, markhor goats have been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources due to poaching for meat and trophy horns, competition for land with domesticated livestock and logging ventures, and civil unrest. 33,60 The number of markhor goats may actually be greater than the current estimate of ,2,500 mature individuals worldwide. ...
... 20,33,51,60 Since 1994, markhor goats have been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources due to poaching for meat and trophy horns, competition for land with domesticated livestock and logging ventures, and civil unrest. 33,60 The number of markhor goats may actually be greater than the current estimate of ,2,500 mature individuals worldwide. 60 Recent surveys have indicated increases in markhor numbers by as much as 50% in Pakistan and Tajikistan where conservation efforts have been ongoing. ...
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The aims of this study were to determine the reproductive seasonality of four captive markhor goats (Capra falconeri heptneri), to characterize semen collected by electroejaculation, and to compare extenders and processing techniques for semen cryopreservation. Over the course of 1 yr, mean monthly scrotal circumference, serum testosterone, and fecal testosterone were measured and found to be inversely associated with day length. Maximum scrotal circumference (25.2 +/- 0.9 cm), serum testosterone (521.0 +/- 103.4 ng/dl), and fecal testosterone (382.5 +/- 90.3 ng/g) occurred in November, when day length was short (9.7 +/- 0.1 hr). Once a month for 3 mo (December, January, and February), bucks were anesthetized for electroejaculation and semen evaluation. Semen samples were divided into six aliquots for extension and cryopreservation in soy-based Bioxcell or Tris-based extender with 5 or 15% egg yolk, with and without centrifugation. Samples were then thawed for repeat evaluation 1-3 mo later. Postthaw evaluation revealed no significant differences between centrifuged and noncentrifuged samples. Sperm in Tris 5% and 15% egg yolk displayed higher total motility at 0, 3, and 6 hr postthaw and higher progressive motility postthaw compared with sperm in Bioxcell (P < 0.05). Sperm in Bioxcell displayed higher viability than sperm in both Tris-egg yolk extenders (P < 0.01), more intact acrosomes than sperm in Tris-15% egg yolk (P < 0.05), and a tendency for more intact acrosomes than sperm in Tris-5% egg yolk (P < 0.10). Sperm in Tris-5% egg yolk tended to have a higher percentage of morphologically normal sperm compared with Bioxcell (P < 0.10). This study provides evidence that markhor goats exhibit seasonality in scrotal circumference and testosterone levels and that centrifugation may be eliminated from the processing of markhor semen.
... Some key habitats in Babatag and Hazratishoh have been affected by the civil war in Tajikistan (1992Tajikistan ( -1997 when poaching was totally uncontrolled. Poaching had also been attributed to border violations from Afghanistan (Michel, 2010). Newborn lambs are captured as pets but the impact on the population is not known. ...
... In Tajikistan, Markhor are poached for meat. There are published reports of skins and horns of about 100 poached Markhor being detected in a camp of Afghan poachers in Tajikistan (Michel 2010). According to Moheb and Mostafawi (2011), hunters in northern Shahr-e Buzurg in Afghanistan told numerous stories of groups of hunters going to Tajikistan to poach, and they showed horns and two skins said to originate from there. ...
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CITES regulates international trade with the goal of preventing over-exploitation, thus the survival of species are not jeopardized from trade practices; however it has been used recently in nontrade conservation measures. As an example, the US proposed to up-list polar bears under CITES Appendix I, despite that the species did not conform to the biological criteria. Polar bears were listed as ‘threatened’ under US ESA in 2008, in response to loss of sea-ice and warming temperatures. In Nunavut, where most of Canada’s polar bears are harvested, the resulting trade ban did not decrease total harvest after the ESA listing but reduced US hunter participation and the proportion of quotas taken by sport hunters from specific populations. Consequently, the import ban impacted livelihoods of Arctic indigenous communities with negative conservation - reduced tolerance for dangerous fauna and affected local participation in shared management initiatives. The polar bear may be the exemplar of an emerging problem: the use of trade bans in place of action for non-trade threats, e.g., climate change. Conservation prospects for this species and other climate-sensitive wildlife will likely diminish if the increasing use of trade bans to combat not-trade issues cause stakeholders to lose faith in participatory management.
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