Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 28 – The Markhor


Markhor and kid

Photo: New Scientist

Description
With its magnificent spiralling horns,  physical bulk and impressive coat;   this is one spectacular goat.  Sadly,  these unique characteristics also make it a target for trophy hunters.  The length and colour of its coat change with the time of year – short and a sort of copperish-grey in summer and long and grey in winter.   

The markhor is a very agile climber and can scale heights of up to 11,000 feet in the summer months, coming back down to 1,600 feet in the winter.  They weigh up to 240 lbs and stand almost 4 feet high at the shoulder, with a body length nearing 6 feet.  When eating they tend to stand on their hind legs to nibble at the shoots and leaves on the higher branches.

With the onset of winter,  the mating season begins.  The males enter into the annual ‘rut’ to attract the females.  They violently lunge for each other,  locking horns,  each trying to throw the other to the ground.

The gestation period that follows  can last up to 170 days,  after which the female usually gives birth to two young.  The females and fawns tend to live together in small herds of about nine individuals,  whilst the males,  once again,  become solitary.

Habitat
Sparsely wooded,  mountainous,  cliff-side  terrain
Where
Pakistan,  Afghanistan,  India,  Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
What they eat
During spring and summer, they graze  mainly  on tussocks of grass.  When these dry up they will browse on dried leaves and twigs.  In winter,  they eat tree leaves and branches.
Threats
Intensive hunting for trophies,  meat and medicine.  Human settlement has encroached upon and disturbed their habitat,  bringing with it  competition for grazing from domestic livestock.
Status: Endangered
The markhor  (Capra falconeri)  is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.  It is estimated,  there are less than 2,500 left and the numbers are declining.  Community based conservation projects have been initiated within the appropriate areas to protect the species and its habitat.

“If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals”
Albert Einstein

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