In October the US Fish & Wildlife Service 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 is 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. US hunters are the most important market if the conservation strategy is to reach its full potential. Of course, US 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 – one, the Endanger Species Act (ESA), and the other, CITES. Some markhok (namely, all the “straight-horned” subspecies) are listed under ESA as “endangered.” Regardless of the subspecies designations, the USF&WS treats straight-horned markhor as “endangered,” while “flare-horned” markhor are not listed. Second, all subspecies, both the “straight-horned” and the “flare-horned”, are listed on Appendix 1 of CITES.
Under the US 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 is stalled 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. Some years they can’t market their small quota because US hunters are reluctant to bear the cost of the hunt unless they can bring home their trophies. The select grant 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 internal regulations that 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 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 US 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 Amazon.com. 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 US 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. 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 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 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.