By Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is likely to increase the practice of trophy hunting of Markhor.
At a recent meeting of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) management authority, Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid directed representatives and conservators of the provincial forest and wildlife departments to conduct fresh and independent surveys before increasing the number of trophy Markhors hunted in the country.
“Only then can Pakistan take its plea in the next conference of parties of the international treaty to protect wildlife to increase the quota for trophy hunting of Markhors,” Mr Hamid told the officials.
Criticised by many, trophy hunting of Markhors is a legal business in Pakistan. Every year Pakistan issues 12 permits, which are marketed and auctioned by provincial governments for a base price of $40,000. Hunters from around the world have, in the recent past, paid as much as $100,000, to be in a picture, crouching over the dead mountain goat and for the biggest horns to mount on the wall of a study.
Found in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), the number of Markhor found in the wild is not known. Azad Jammu and Kashmir is also home to a very small population of the animal. Hunting Markhor in AJK, is however, prohibited.
Nonetheless, representatives of the provincial forest departments informed the meeting on CITES Management Authority that the population of Markhor had been increasing and Pakistan should plea in the next CITIES conference of parties to increase the quota of Markhor for Pakistan.
The meeting observed that the amount earned through the trophy hunting was spent on the welfare of communities and in better protecting the local wildlife.
It was decided that surveys should be conducted with the help of the provincial wildlife departments, WWF, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Higher Education Commission approved universities having zoology and wildlife departments.
It was also discussed that a province would communicate to the wildlife department at the federal level if its annual quota for trophy hunting was unutilised. The underutilised quota would be transferred to other provinces on a first come serve basis.
Chief Wildlife Conservator, Ministry of Climate Change, Umeed Khalid, told Dawn that Pakistan could not, on its own, increase the number of quota to hunt Markhors.
“Pakistan will have to convince the conference of parties on international treaty to protect wildlife for its approval to increase quota to trophy hunt Markhors.”
The official explained that permits were issued to hunt only very old/mature male Markhors. The older the animal the bigger are the horns.
According to the WWF, several factors have resulted in the population decline such as hunting for meat and sport (trophies), besides destruction to its habitat, encroachment, fencing and transferable diseases from livestock.