War and wild goats

Conservation of the Pir Panjal markhor in Kashmir

Introduction

In strife torn Kashmir, wildlife conservation had taken a back seat for many decades. However, with an improving political situation, opportunities for conservation are slowly becoming apparent. Markhor is possibly a suitable flagship for catalyzing conservation in these mountain tracts. Conservation efforts for the species will also benefit other wildlife of the region that includes the western tragopan, musk deer and brown bear. Markhor are found in three Wildlife Sanctuaries and one Conservation Reserve, in all covering only about c. 252km2. Our surveys found relatively large markhor populations only in the Hirpura and the Limber Wildlife Sanctuaries where close to 200 markhor are tenuously surviving. The two areas however differ in the habitat structure and human pressures. We believe that a thorough understanding of the species’ habitat and diet selection, relationships with local human resource use and threats from poaching and Military operations will be a critical link in formulating a thorough conservation strategy that can be implemented in collaboration with the Army, the Wildlife Department and other conservation agencies. 

Conservation outcome

Our work has three components that include focused research on the species, starting awareness programmes for the local population, policy makers and military, and the formulation of a species Conservation Action Plan. While the research aspect will be covered during the first year of the project along with substantial headway on the awareness programmes, the interventions and action plan shall be initiated during the second year. The important aspects that need further investigation are markhor habitat and food requirements, the levels of local use by pastoralists and villagers and the level of extant threats. It is also important to have a clearer understanding of the potential range of the species based on its habitat and identify other potential areas and corridors that can support markhor. 

We aim to study the seasonal occurrence and habitat use of markhor in two sites. We also aim to evaluate the degree of competition between livestock and markhor, and quantify the dependence of pastoralists on markhor habitat.

People

Publications

  • Journal Article
    2009
    Endangered markhor Capra falconeri in India: through war and insurgency
    Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Riyaz Ahmad, Sunil Subba Kyaronga, M K Ranjitsinha, C M Seth, Imtiaz Ahmed Lonea, P S Easaa, Rahul Kaul, R Raghunath
    Oryx 43(3): 407-411
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    PDF, 170 KB

    The flare horned markhor Capra falconeri occurs in northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Most of the species’ range is along volatile international borders and limited information is available, especially for the population of the Pir Panjal or Kashmir markhor C. f. falconeri in India. From October 2004 to April 2005 we therefore conducted the first range-wide survey of the species in India since independence. The markhor's range has shrunk from c. 300 km2 in the late 1940s to c. 120 km2 in 2004–2005. Our surveys and interviews with key local informants indicate that 350–375 markhor may yet exist in the region. All the populations are small (usually < 50) and fragmented. International conflicts, developmental projects, the needs of an increasing human population and poaching, along with lack of awareness, are the primary threats to the species. The largest population in India, in Kajinag, may have potential for long-term survival if immediate conservation measures can be implemented.

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