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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wildlife Series. (1988-7)

Markhor is endangered throughout its habitat in Pakistan. The name “Markhor” means “Snake Eater” but there is no evidence to suggest that it actually does eat them. The other meaning attributed to Markhor (MAR-AKHUR) is “Snake Like Horn” which seems to be more descriptive and apt illustration of its spiral shaped horns.

It is the largest and heaviest of all the wild goats. There are several sub-species of Markhor, amongst which Suleiman Markhor is more widely distributed but also severely restricted in numbers.

Unscru-pulous hunting and transmission of diseases by domestic cattle have reduced its population size. Man is, however, the most serious predator and has made its status threatened with extinction.

Suleiman Markhor occurs in scattered isolated population on all the major ranges immediately to the north and east of Quetta. It also found in Toba Kakar range and along the borders with Afghanistan.

In the Suleiman range it occurs in the Gurchani Hills. Blue pine forests of Shingar Range is the other habitat where this animal is found. Suleiman Markhor have long spirally twisted horns which measures upto 92 cm.

Old males have a long thick beard with relatively short thick legs and broad hooves. It is reddish grey in color weighing about 110. Kg. It measures 107 cm at the shoulder. Females have same shape of horns but shorter in length (26 cm).

It is a gregarious species. Females with their young generally live u~ herds. Mature males invariably live solitary and frequent inaccessible crags. They are diurnal, feeding on grasses more actively in early morning and late evening.

At this time male possess a very pungent goaty odour. Gestation period varies from 162-170 days. Twins are quite commonly born and there is a record of triplicates. Young Markhor definitely stay with their mother until next young is about to born.

Markhor have an alarming snort. It is perhaps more of a sneeze sound but quite explosive and capable of carrying several hundred yards. The oldest recorded age is 1 0 years.

The other sub-species of Markhor found within Pakistan and in the neighbouring countries of USSR and Afghanistan are as follows:

1. Capra falconeri cashmiriensis

The Pir Panjal, Chitral.

2. Capra falconeri falconeri

Astor, Gilgit.

3. Capra falconeri chialtanesis. Chiltan

4. Capra falconeri heptneri

Badakhshan, USSR.

5. Capra falconeri megaceros

Kabul and Safed Koh.

Survey of the different sub-species of the Markhor have revealed that majority of the population of this unique and impressive looking wild animal is present in Pakistan. It is therefore, our moral and legal obligation to save it from extinction and provide it a safe environment to prosper.

To highlight the need to protect the wild animals and their environment, this special stamp on Suleiman Markhor is being issued on the event of the visit of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, President World Wild Fund for Nature to Pakistan.

To focus world attention on the need to protect and preserve this vulnerable wildlife species Pakistan Post Office is issuing a special postage stamp of Rs 2 value depicting “Suleiman Markhor” (Capra falconeri Jerdoni) on October 29, 1988. It is a part of the series on wildlife stamps being issued by Pakistan Post Office since 1975.