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, before 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 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 fewer 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 20 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 honor 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 US Fish & Wildlife Service 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.