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Adbuzz-3rd-featurepakistan_glossy_wave_icon_6The majestic markhor, the national animal of Pakistan, has made a wonderful comeback from the point of extinction which is excellent news indeed.

Only 14 years ago, the markhor population in Gilgit-Baltistan was estimated to be less than 1,000 and this astonishing animal, which has twisting horns measuring up to a spectacular five feet in length, was classified as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

There are an estimated 2,500 mature markhor in the world today, and due to the dedicated work of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the number of markhor in Pakistan is now approximately 1,500, giving Pakistan the largest markhor population on Earth. These high mountain dwelling members of the goat family currently inhabit very remote areas of Afghanistan, Kashmir, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; in Pakistan, small herds live in Azad Kashmir, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan.

Markhor have been long hunted illegally for their magnificent head of horns and were it not for the unflagging conservation efforts of the WCS, these indigenous alpine animals would have disappeared long since. Now, with numbers on the upsurge and local mountain communities, assisted by rangers conscientiously guarding the animals in their ‘care’, the government is issuing a limited number of hunting licenses allowing, under strict supervision, the culling of old animals past the breeding age as this benefits the herd as a whole.

The name ‘markhor’ is derived from the Pashto words ‘mar’ which means snake and ‘akhur’ meaning horns which aptly describe the snake-like twisting of the animal’s stupendous horns. Some people disagree with this translation and claim that markhor translates to ‘snake eater’ due to the animal’s ability to kill snakes with its very sharp hooves. Whatever the origin of its name, the markhor is an excellent choice of animal to depict the proud spirit of every single Pakistani in the nation.

Happy Pakistan Day!

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 17, 2013.