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Markhor Hunting In Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan A Lucrative Business?

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Markhor hunting in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region has become a lucrative business for the locals. A Spanish citizen became the third foreign hunter of the season by hunting a Markhor – the national animal of Pakistan, on the outskirts of Gilgit-Baltistan.

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Markhor, also known for its beautiful coiled horns, is a large Capra species native to Central Asia, Karakoram and the Himalayas. It is listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened since 2015.

“John March hunted Markhor whose horns measured 40 inches,” said Tariq Shah, spokesperson of the Gilgit-Baltistan wildlife department. “It was the third Markhor hunt made by an international hunter this season,” he added.

The Spanish hunter paid a fee of $83,00 to the Pakistan officials to purchase a hunting permit auctioned by the Gilgit-Baltistan government last year. Even though hunting of Markhor is illegal in Pakistan, Islamabad has launched a scheme known as trophy hunting that makes hunting legal for the highest bidder.

Markhor Hunting In Pakistan

The Markhor was a popular game animal during the days of the British Raj, and the practice continued after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. By the 1990s the Markhor had been driven to the brink, and the Pakistan Government suggested a complete ban on hunting.

Since then, the Markhor population has increased and there are approximately 4,000 Markhor in the country. When the population gradually increased, the ban was slowly replaced by controlled trophy hunting, a programme often cited as a huge victory in biodiversity preservation.

Under the trophy hunting programme, 80% of the licence fee with the government keeping the rest. The amount varies as there is a bidding process involved. With just four markhor permitted to be hunted every season, from October to April,  the approximate cost of licences range between $80 t0 $120,000. Until now, no Pakistani has ever dared to purchase this licence for hunting the Markhor.

In trophy hunting, only old male goats are shot. The age of the Markhor can be determined by the horns, its gait and from the body,” according to experts. In addition, the programme has put a complete ban on killing without a licence. The maximum sentence for illegally hunting a Markhor is 3 years imprisonment.

Outcry Over Hunting Of Markhor In Pakistan

The recent story of a US hunter who paid $110,000 for hunting a Markhor in Pakistan drew social media outrage, with netizens suggesting a legal ban on hunting the species or suggesting foreign tourists photograph the goats rather than hunt them.

Animal rights organizations People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said on Twitter criticized Harlan for his hunting adventure. “Goats are gentle individuals, NOT TROPHIES,” wrote PETA.

Pakistan and the US have serious trust deficit with each other. It’s not a very good relationship. Then there are American hunters coming and shooting the Pakistani national animal. And some people say, if Markhor are endangered, why are people shooting them?

Many Pakistanis living in big cities have been furious over the hunting of the country’s national animal. But an expert talking to the EurAsian Times stated that hunting of Markhor in Pakistan has tremendously benefitted both the species and the local population. Now the locals prize the Markhor, protect it, as the goat has brought massive economic benefits to the region.

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