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Markhor - Capra falconeri
linnaeus1758: Wrote:Markhor - Capra falconeri

[Image: Male-Tadjik-markhor-on-ridge.jpg]

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Capra
SpeciesCapra falconeri

Weight: 32 - 110 kgs.
Length: 140 - 180 cm.

Markhors are the national animals of Pakistan.
Capra falconeri is highly sexually dimorphic in size. Males weigh between 80 and 110 kgs., whereas females weigh only 32 to 50 kgs. Body length varies between 140 and 180 cm., and the tail may add an additional 8 to 14 cm. to the total length.
The relatively short coat of C. falconeri can range in color from light tan to dark brown, and even black. Capra falconeri differs from Capra ibex in that it lacks the extremely dense winter underwool possessed by the latter. Fringed beards are present in both sexes, but are thicker, longer, and more distinct in male markhors.
Light and dark color patterns, typical of all C. falconeri subspecies, are present on the lower legs. Capra falconeri lacks the knee tufts, inguinal and suborbital glands present in many species of goats inhabiting mountainous regions. 
Males and females both posses extremely bold, flared, corkscrew-like horns. These horns twist outward and may reach lengths up to 160 cm. in males and 24 cm. in females. The angle and direction of horn curvature varies among the seven subspecies of C. falconeri. Horn color varies from dark to reddish-brown. 
Although some might mistake C. falconeri for other members of the genus from a distance, the horns of markhors make them quite unique in appearance. Northern populations of C. falconeri can be easily distinguished from Capra aegagrus by the dorsal crest and lower hanging beard in C. falconeri, as well as the differences in horn morphology and coloration.
Considering the relatively open and exposed habitat area of C. falconeri, it is not surprising that this mammal possesses intensely keen eyesight. The sense of smell is also extremely developed. Both of the aforementioned senses are utilized in territory recognition and predator detection. Capra falconeri continually scans its environment for the presence of predators. Markhor exhibits highly calculated and intense movements in response to predator detection.
The colloquial name is thought by some to be derived from the Persian word mar, meaning snake, and khor, meaning "eater", which is sometimes interpreted to either represent the species' ability to kill snakes, or as a reference to its corkscrewing horns, which are somewhat reminiscent of coiling snakes. According to folklore, the markhor has the ability to kill a snake and eat it. Thereafter, while chewing the cud, a foam-like substance comes out of its mouth which drops on the ground and dries. This foam-like substance is sought after by the local people, who believe it is useful in extracting snake poison from snake bitten wounds.
Seven distinct subspecies of C. falconeri have been documented. Each can be distinguished from the others upon examination and notation of respective shape, size, and curvature of the horns.
Additionally, during the birthing season, female markhors have been documented giving a distinctive nasal call when approaching their young.

[Image: 458px-Capra_falconeri_hepteneri.jpg]

Capra falconeri is largely diurnal, although is reported to be most active in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Markhors forage up to 12 or 14 hours per day, including a resting period to chew cud.
Females are social and travel in herds that contain, on average, 8 to 9 individuals. This is significantly smaller than the average herds of Capra ibex and Capra aegagrus. Herd composition is primarily female, with males temporarily joining during the rutting season. Males are otherwize solitary. 
Although most markhors move to lower elevations, and subsequently milder conditions, during the winter, several populations of C. falconeri have been documented at higher elevations.

[Image: Group-of-Tadjik-markhors.jpg]

Like most ungulates, C. falconeri does not mate monogamously. Markhors breed annually, with males competing aggressively during the rut for the right to sire the offspring of female herds.
Capra falconeri breeds annually, with the rut occurring in the autumn and winter months. It is during this time that solitary males may temporarily join female herds.
Pregnancy lasts 135 to 170 days. Each pregnancy can produce 1 or 2 offspring. Weaning occurs at the age of 5 or 6 months. Young typically remain with their mother until breeding season. Reproductive maturity occurs at the age of 18 to 36 months, and is later in males than in females.
Markhors are usually born in the spring and summer months of May and June. The young are initially born in a shallow earthen hollow. They are able to walk soon after birth, and can travel with the mother. Mothers provide nourishment (milk) and protection to their growing young. They stay with the mother for approximately 6 months, although there are several reports of kids remaining with the mother thereafter. Males are not reported to participate in parental care.
The lifespan of C. falconeri ranges from 11 to 13 years. The species is both hardy and resilient, and as a result, small herds may be successfully reared and maintained in captivity.

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As is true of other large, mountain-dwelling ungulates, C. falconeri maintains a strictly herbivorous diet composed of a variety of grasses in the spring and summer months. During the autumn and winter months, it switches over to eatingleaves, twigs, and shrubs. Markhor diets include, but are not limited to, Pennisetum orientale, Enneapogon persicum, Hippophae rhamnoides, and Quercus ilex.

Distribution and habitat
Scattered populations of Capra falconeri, first described by Wagner in 1839, and commonly referred to as markhors, may be found throughout the arid and steppe regions of the western Himalayas. Countries of discontinuous distribution are limited to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Capra falconeri is adapted to mountainous terrain between 600 m. and 3600 m. elevation. Moreover, the presence of C. falconeri is strongly associated with scrub forests made up primarily of oaks (Quercus ilex), pines (Pinus gerardiana), and junipers (Juniperus macropoda).
Population densities in Pakistan range from 1 to 9 individuals/sq km. The range of such herds is often extremely limited as a result of the mountainous terrain which markhors inhabit.

[Image: Male-straight-horned-markhor.jpg]

Ecosystem roles
Markhors aid in the dispersal of seeds of the wild grasses that compose their diet. Additionally, C. falconeri serves as an important food source for several large mountain mammals, including Himalayan lynx, Snow Leopards, wolves, and panthers. As a result, markhor populations are usually small and composed of strong and healthy individuals.

Markhors are heavily hunted by humans during the winter months. It is during this time that the majority of markhors descends to lower elevations in search of forage.
Is prized among trophy hunters and members of the Asian medicine market. They face habitat competition from both domestic livestock and local agriculture. As a result, all populations of feral C. falconeri have been steadily declining over the past 40 years.
Since 1976, Kabul (C. falconeri megaceros), Straight-horned (C. falconeri jerdoni), and Chithan markhor (C. falconeri chiltanensis), have been declared endangered by the USFWS. In addition, C. falconeri was classified as endangered and conservation-dependant in 1996 by the IUCN. The latter classification indicates that the long-term survival of this species is heavily dependent on the initiation and maintenance of conservation programs.

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Team reports sighting rare wild goat species in Afghanistan

September 14, 2018 by Janet Lathrop, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Zalmai Moheb, an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society's Afghanistan Program and a doctoral candidate at UMass Amherst,, with others, report for the first time documenting by direct observation the presence of the markhor and one other rare Asian wild goat species in the country. Credit: UMass Amherst/Zalmai Moheb

Based on field surveys in northern Afghanistan, Zalmai Moheb, an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society's Afghanistan Program and a doctoral candidate in environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with others, report this week that they have for the first time documented by direct observation the presence of two rare Asian wild goat species in the country.

The species, both of concern to conservationists, are the markhor (Capra falconeri) or screw-horned goat, and the Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica), which occur in several countries. Both have been reported in Afghanistan, but few studies have been made there in recent years and their distribution is largely unknown, Moheb points out.

The report of field surveys he and colleagues conducted from July to October 2011 has just been published in the annual newsletter of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Caprinae Specialist Group.

Moheb and colleagues report that they directly observed markhor and ibex on the Afghan side of the Amu Darva River, the border with Tajikistan, for the first time in the Shahr-e Buzurg district and the Darwaz region, plus indirect field evidence and local community reports.

They say, "The strip of land along the Amu Darya River from western Darwaz to Shahr-e Buzurg district through Khawahan and Raghistan districts should be a priority site for future markhor and ibex conservation in Afghanistan. If protection measures are taken, this area along with the adjacent protected area in Tajikistan, could act as valuable and viable refuge for sustaining markhor and other wild species that inhabit the region."

Moheb and co-authors Said Naqibullah Mostafawi and Peter Zahler, with the Wildlife Conservation Society at the time of the survey, plus his advisor at UMass Amherst professor Todd Fuller, point out that the animals are "nominally protected" from hunting, but both species are most likely hunted throughout their range by local tribesmen. Zahler is now vice president of conservation initiatives at Woodland Park Zoo, Washington, D.C. and Mostafawi is now a free-lance consultant.

For this work, the research ecologists surveyed a strip of shrubby scrubland along the Amu Darya River in four districts of Afghanistan's northern Badakhshan Province. They visited 46 villages and four field sites, most in valleys, over 115 square miles (300 sq. km) in Shahr-e Buzurg and 770 square miles (1,997 sq. km) in the Darwaz region. They also interviewed and showed photographs to village headmen, hunters and shepherds believed to be the most knowledgeable about local wildlife.

They also visited potential markhor and ibex habitats suggested by sources using experienced local hunters as field guides to confirm animals in the area. In Shahr-e Buzurg the ecologists report 41 of 67 respondents, 61 percent, said that markhor were present and once abundant, but numbers have declined and few remain. The researchers themselves saw four markhor in the Payan-e Moor area and local hunters said they thought about 20 markhor were in the area. They also found horns and markhor skins.

In the Darwaz region, the researchers report that 37 percent, 15 of 40 respondents said markhor existed in the western part of the district, and the researchers themselves saw six animals and four pairs of markhor horns. Further, 56 percent of respondents, 74 or 131, said that ibex occurs in some parts of the region and showed them skin and horns.

Overall, the ecologists say markhor populations in Shahr-e Buzurg are believed to be small and may only survive due to animals coming in from Tajikistan. Markhor populations in Leiwgard in the Kof Ab district of Darwas appear "larger and more stable," though still linked to nearby Tajik populations.

"We suspect that when water level drops in the river during winter, markhor could move between both areas," the authors note. "The remoteness of Leiwgard is likely the primary reason that markhor and ibex still exist in this area." Leiwgard is home to roughly 80 markhor, sources said, along with ibex, brown bear and snow leopards.

Local sources also reported that markhor and ibex share the same area, but markhor prefer lower elevations and steep cliffs, while ibex like higher elevations with colder environments. "This, if true, is one of the very few areas where these two caprid species overlap," the researchers note.

Moheb and colleagues urge taking several conservation management actions to assist markhor and biodiversity in the area, in particular along the Amu Darya River. "This area is a priority for future markhor conservation and for other endangered wildlife such as snow leopard. The area has the advantage of being connected to the M-Sayod Conservancy on the Tajik side of the border, and so efforts could be combined between Afghanistan and Tajikistan to promote conservation in the larger area," they point out. Coordinating conservation efforts could preserve unique habitats and endangered wildlife, they add.

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