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Important Development in Markhor Conservation

In October the USF&WS issued the first trophy importation permit for markhor of any kind from Pakistan since 1992 (15 years) when all markhor were listed on Appendix 1 of CITES.  The proud hunter is Wayne Lau, who took the male flare-horned markhor (Capra falconeri falconeri/Kashmir) in the Gaharet Markhor Conservancy in the Chitral Province of Pakistan in March, 2006.  This could be a groundbreaking development for markhor conservation because it recognizes and rewards the world-renown markhor program in Pakistan.


            This successful Conservation Force initiative entitled The Other Markhor Project has added the missing element necessary for the Pakistan conservation strategy to work and grow.  U.S. hunters are the most important market if the conservation strategy is to reach its full potential.  Of course, U.S. hunters have been unwilling to hunt unless they could bring their trophies home.  The licensed, regulated hunting may now fulfill its role as a true force for conservation in a case in which the need is exceptionally great.


            There have been two impasses to importation of markhor hunting trophies from Pakistan – one, the ESA, and the other, CITES.  Some are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as “endangered”, which are all the “straight-horned” subspecies.  Regardless of the subspecies designations, the USF&WS treats straight-horned markhor as “endangered” while “flare-horned” is not listed.  Second, all subspecies, both the “straight-horned” and the “flare-horned”, are listed on Appendix 1 of CITES.


            Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the USF&WS’s International Section must find that the hunt enhanced the survival of the species in the wild before granting an import permit application.  Conservation Force long ago filed applications for import of those, but the permits have languished for years within the USF&WS.  The USF&WS did publish a proposal that it would begin to issue ESA enhancement permits and cited the markhor program in Pakistan as an example, but that proposal languishes at the political level.  The straight-horned markhor, including the Suleiman of the Torghar Project, are unfortunately listed as “endangered”.  The Torghar Project in Pakistan is the most famous for its conservation success, but some years they can’t market their small quota because U.S. hunters are reluctant to bear the cost of the hunt unless they can bring home their trophies.  The select granting of trophy import permits can be a great incentive and reward tool for conservation, but generally the ESA has not been administered as a management aid.


            In 1992 (COP 8), Pakistan consented to the listing of all of its markhor on Appendix 1 of CITES when it was assured that listing would prohibit commercial trade of markhor parts, but not tourist hunting trade.  Though few thought that listing would stop trophy trade, that proved to be a mistake.  At a subsequent Conference of the Parties, Pakistan obtained a markhor quota of six per year in hopes that the USF&WS would honor that determination of the Parties of CITES and the two specific Resolutions of the parties that (1) importing countries should ordinarily accept the non-detriment determination made by the exporting country (Pakistan), and (2) that a COP quota Resolution was a non-detriment finding by the Parties as a whole that eliminated any further finding need by importing countries.  Of course, the objective of the quota was to overcome the USF&WS impasse, but it didn’t.  The quota proved to be unsuccessful because the International Section of the USF&WS has insisted upon making its own independent biological and management non-detriment determinations and does not honor the quota Resolution adopted by the full Conference of the Parties.  In fact, the USF&WS has just recently formalized its internal regulations that it will prevent it from any longer issuing permits based upon a COP set quota or an exporting country’s non-detriment finding.  It must now make its own non-detriment determination.  This markhor permit is the first successful new Appendix 1 application for any trophy import since 1996 (11 years) when the USF&WS began permitting import of Botswana elephant hunting trophies and 1995 Cameroon elephant (12 years).  In short, it is not easy to establish import of Appendix 1 hunting trophies today, but we did it.


            At CITES COP12, the Parties increased the quota for markhor from 6 to 12 expressly so that the successful Markhor Torghar Project in Pakistan could be expanded to other tribal areas, including those where the subspecies are not listed as endangered.  In response and in furtherance of that worthy goal, Conservation Force started a second markhor project to establish the importation of the other markhor, i.e., those not listed as “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  We clearly understood that it would never happen unless we set out to do it as an initiative under the title The Other Markhor, i.e., an initiative to establish import of those listed on Appendix 1, within the quota of 12 and not listed as “endangered”.  We’ve not given up on those listed as “endangered” (straight-horned), but we’ve proceeded with the others in the interval.


            The initiative could not have been successful without Wayne Lau, the hunter.  Wayne was not just helpful enough to let us use his hunt in the Gaharet Markhor Conservancy in Pakistan as a test permit.  He is a hunter-conservationist at heart and sought Conservation Force out for examples of projects to further the conservation of species in critical need.  He selected the hunt to further The Other Markhor initiative.  Some think Conservation Force serves well-to-do hunters, but that is only indirectly.  We are first at using hunting as a force for conservation and the hunters are tools or means to that end, not the stand-alone objective.  Wayne is a conservationist who is pre-selecting his hunts with purposes that serve everyone and all that we care so deeply about as hunters.  “I purposefully selected the markhor and made the hunt first for the conservation of the species and second only for the hunt.  This is another instance where hunting is an indispensable tool for the conservation of a species,” says Wayne.  Wayne was also extremely helpful in information gathering and strategizing the whole effort; in short, a real soldier for the cause.  He has since been put on Conservation Force’s Board of Advisors and is assisting in other projects around the globe.


            The hunt itself has recently been described by Wayne Lau in the new book Chasing the Hunter’s Dream, by Jeffrey and Sherol Engel and James A. Swan (also on Conservation Force’s Board of Advisors), published by Harper Collins 2007 and available at  Its on page 404 and is entitled “Dream Hunt: The King of Mountain Goats.  The introduction to that incredible book explains that “if you haven’t got a place to hunt, then the spirit of the hunt will wane, dilute the great conservation efforts that are underway, and dim the future of this noble pursuit…While this book is about and for the modern hunter, it is ultimately about natural magic because extraordinary hunting places breed memories and dreams.  Those memories and dreams are the foundation of the conservation ethic and what keeps the flame in the human soul burning.”  This is appropriate, for Wayne Lau has indeed given us a new hunting destination.


            The real origin of the Markhor Project was Dr. Bart O’Gara, a founding member of Conservation Force who did not live to see what he started.  He initially suggested the underlying hunting conservation strategy to the Pakistanis when he was a career employee of the U.S. Extension Service advising overseas.  Although he did not live to see it, the Convention on Biodiversity, CBD, cites the program as an example of best practices exemplifying the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines for Sustainable Use adopted by the CBD.  Dr. O’Gara was well-respected and helped Conservation Force a great deal with the initiative so this recent success is even more meaningful to all of us who knew, loved and respected him.


            The Conklin Foundation has helped specifically fund Conservation Force’s markhor initiatives.  Its logo is the markhor, though the straight-horned type.  The Grand Slam/OVIS has also helped and even stepped up its annual donation in anticipation that Conservation Force would have to litigate this permit application.  Wayne Lau’s permit was originally denied and was only granted after we filed a petition for reconsideration of the denial.


            We must also thank Shikar Safari Club International, “Shikar”.  Shikar has long funded the underlying markhor conservation program throughout Pakistan, including the education of the conservation leaders in Pakistan.  Moreover, Shikar, Grand Slam/OVIS and the Conklin Foundation all provide core support for Conservation Force itself as do others such as FNAWS, DSC, HSC, African Safari Club of Florida, IPHA, etc.  A special thanks to Steven Chancellor, who not only provides core support for Conservation Force, but who provided considerable guidance, advice and liaison in the finishing stages of the permitting appeal.


            The International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife (IGF) in Paris, WWF and IUCN have all played critical roles on the ground in Pakistan.  This achievement is really a credit to them for approximately two decades of work in the field.  Again, this is not just about the joy of hunting the greatest goat in the world in a “dream hunt.”  It is the culmination of decades of work at local, national and international levels.  The real beneficiaries are the markhor that otherwise would have long ago ceased to exist and the local tribal people that hold the markhor’s fate in their hands.


            All of this would be for naught if the USF&WS had not granted Wayne Lau’s permit application.  Credit is due the USF&WS for its wisdom in granting the permit in the reconsideration/appeal process.  In effect, the USF&WS has rewarded and re-incentivized all those instrumental in conserving the markhor for their strategy and hard work and for setting a positive example for others.  We are now expanding the test permitting to other areas in Pakistan that are similar to the Gaharet Conservancy.  The hunts are being brokered by The Hunting Consortium, 540-955-0090, which has also been partnering and supporting Conservation Force in this effort.  We need your support too.







Update on Kashmir Markhor

          Conservation Force has filed three more permit applications for Kashmir trophies from the Chitral District of Pakistan.  They were taken in the Tooshi Shasha and Gehrait markhor conservancies.  Three American hunters paid $150,000 each for the privilege of hunting the markhor.  No less than $105,000 dollars reached the actual conservancy or village located within it for every markhor hunted this past season, $315,000.


            The conservation funding received by the conservancies almost doubled what had been received previously now that an American, Wayne Lau, has been able to import his trophy.  We expect the trophy import applications to be granted in due course, but have taken special care in preparing them because of the conservation role of the hunting.  There is no question that the American market is the strongest and American hunters have a strong conservation ethic.


            We hope to establish the import of other markhor such as the Astor in the future and continue pressing for the import of Sulaiman markhor (ESA endangered) which is one of the most celebrated successes of sustainable use in the world.  An example of that recognition occurred during the recent Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bonn, Germany.  There the 80 year old CIC (The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation) inaugurated the CIC Markhor Award for Outstanding Conservation Performance.  The first recipients were the Selous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor and the Niassa Game Reserve.  Niassa is Mozambique’s largest conservation area and the Corridor links it to the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania.  The CIC reported that the markhor symbol was selected for the new award because the markhor “population numbers have been multiplied 25 times in recent years through sustainable hunting tourism.  Hunting income benefits the local population and arouses its interest in conserving wildlife.”  Of the many conservation dignitaries present and speaking at the award ceremony, the address of Robert Hepworth, the Executive Secretary of the UNEP/CMS Secretariat (United Nations Environment Program/Convention on Migratory Species) best addresses the markhor as the icon it has become:


“Ladies and gentlemen, the markhor inhabits some of the most magnificent high-altitude mountain ranges…One of the most rugged regions where the rarest and largest of these wild goats, the Sulaiman markhor, is found is known as the Torghar Mountain of Pakistan.  The name “markhor” means “snake horns”…and is an accurate description for these impressive horns.... (T)he markhor were on the road to extinction.  However, the “snake horns” of the markhor have recently helped to reverse this trend!  The species has become associated with a highly successful community-based conservation project.  This project takes advantage of the high trophy value of the markhor’s “snake horns,” of which a small number determined by the CITES quota have been allowed to be exported since 1997.  Foreign hunters paid US $40,000 per trophy in 2006.  The resultant revenue pays for rural development initiatives such as health care, education and improved water management.  This has created a strong incentive for local people to protect markhor rather than to hunt it themselves for food or recreation.  The result in terms of population numbers has been astounding.  In 1985 less than 100 markhor were all that was left in the Torghar area and this is when the Torghar Conservation Program was initiated (and that is when founding Conservation Force Board Member Dr. Bart O’Gara suggested the conservation hunting strategy).  In 2005, the markhor population size in the same area was estimated to have risen to over 2,500 animals.  A 25-fold increase in numbers in twenty years – what an achievement!  The Convention on Biological Diversity refers to the Torghar project in Pakistan as the single best example of ‘best practices’ of sustainable use.  Thus I welcome the initiative…(of the CIC) to use the markhor as its flagship species for its new award to honour conservation projects that are community-based and that successfully use hunting as a tool for rural development.  Sustainable use projects are extremely difficult to implement successfully, and thus it is all the more important to recognize those examples that work and to share the lessons learned....”


            The International Affairs Section of the USF&WS does not grant permits for import of markhor for the Torghar Program cited, but it did have the good sense to grant one from the Chitral area last year and hopefully will grant the three new applications as well.  A special thanks is due Sam Jaksick, Jesse Kirk and Edward Yates who are the three hunting pioneers following in Wayne Lau’s footsteps in the Chitral region.  We are privileged to be able to further such a program and to work with such a caliber of hunt pioneer partners.

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