Monday, February 5, 2024

Markhor

Markhor UPSC

The Markhor (Capra falconeri) is a large wild goat species native to Central Asia and parts of South Asia, mainly within Pakistan, the Karakoram range, parts of Afghanistan, and the Himalayas. It has a worldwide population of around 5,000.


Markhor is known for its distinctive corkscrew horns, which can grow up to 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) in length. The name "Markhor" is derived from Persian and means "snake eater," possibly referring to the spiral shape of its horns.


Markhors inhabit steep, rocky terrain at high altitudes, ranging from 600 to 3,600 meters (2,000 to 11,800 feet) above sea level. They are known for their agility and climbing abilities, allowing them to navigate the rugged landscapes in search of food. 


Markhors face various threats, including habitat loss, poaching, and competition with domestic livestock for resources. Conservation efforts are underway in some regions to protect and preserve these unique and endangered wild goats. The species is also the national animal of Pakistan, where it is considered a symbol of wildlife conservation.


Table of Contents

  • Markhor Characteristics
    • Classification
    • Scientific Name
    • Subspecies
    • Habitat
    • Physical Appearance
    • Diet
    • Behavior
    • Reproduction
    • Lifespan
  • Markhor in India
  • Markhor Protection Status
  • Markhor Conservation
  • Threats
  • Markhor UPSC Question


Markhor Characteristics

Markhors exhibit several distinct characteristics:


1. Classification:

Q. What is the classification of Markhor?

The Markhor belongs to the genus Capra, which includes several other species of wild goats. Here is the classification of the Markhor:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Subfamily: Caprinae
  • Genus: Capra
  • Species: Capra falconeri



2. Scientific Name:

The scientific name for the Markhor is Capra falconeri.



3. Subspecies:

The Markhor (Capra falconeri) has several recognized subspecies, each adapted to different regions of its range. These subspecies exhibit variations in horn shape, body size, and coat color, reflecting their adaptations to the specific environments in which they live. These subspecies include:


1. Astorian Markhor (Capra falconeri falconeri): Found in the Astor Valley in Pakistan.


2. Bukharan Markhor (Capra falconeri heptneri): Native to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and possibly Afghanistan.


3. Kashmir Markhor (Capra falconeri cashmiriensis): Inhabits parts of northern India and Pakistan, particularly the Kashmir region.


4. Suleiman Markhor (Capra falconeri jerdoni): Found in the Sulaiman Range of Pakistan.


5. Chiltan Markhor (Capra falconeri chiltanensis): Inhabits the Chiltan Range in southwestern Pakistan.


6. Kabul Markhor (Capra falconeri megaceros): Native to eastern Afghanistan.


7. Western or Spin Ghar Markhor (Capra falconeri falconeri): Found in the western regions of Afghanistan.


8. Nuristan Markhor (Capra falconeri nuristanica): Inhabits the Nuristan province of Afghanistan.



4. Habitat:

Markhors are adapted to survive in rugged and mountainous terrain. Their habitat preferences include steep and rocky landscapes at high altitudes. Here are some key aspects of the Markhor's habitat:


(i) Geographical Range:

The Markhor's range extends across Central Asia, including parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Specific subspecies may be found in distinct regions within this range.


(ii) Altitude:

Markhors are typically found at elevations ranging from 600 to 3,600 meters (2,000 to 11,800 feet) above sea level. They are well-adapted to the challenges posed by high-altitude environments.


(iii) Terrain:

Markhors inhabit areas with steep and rocky terrain, including cliffs, ledges, and rocky outcrops. Their agility and climbing abilities allow them to navigate these challenging landscapes effectively.


(iv) Vegetation:

Their habitats often consist of sparse vegetation, including grasses, leaves, and shrubs. They typically inhabit shrub forests made up primarily of oaks, pines, and junipers.



5. Physical Appearance:

The Markhor (Capra falconeri) has a distinctive and robust physical appearance, with several notable features:


(i) Size and Weight:

Markhors are large and robust wild goats. Males are generally larger than females.

  • Markhors stand between 65 to 115 centimeters (26 to 45 inches) at the shoulder.
  • They measure from 132 to 186 centimeters (52 to 73 inches) in length.
  • The weight of Markhors ranges from 32 to 110 kilograms (71 to 243 pounds).


(ii) Coat:

What is the color of Markhor?

Markhors have a short, dense coat that provides insulation against the cold temperatures of high-altitude environments. The coloration of the coat can vary, ranging from light brown to dark reddish-brown, and it often helps them blend in with their rocky surroundings. The winter coat is thicker and longer than the summer coat.


(iii) Horns:

The most distinctive feature of the Markhor is its spiral-shaped horns. In males, these horns can grow to impressive lengths, reaching up to 1.6 meters (5.2 feet). The horns have a corkscrew or spiral shape, and they are used for display, dominance, and competition during the mating season. Females also have horns, but they are generally shorter and straighter. The horns of females can reach up to 25 cm (10 inches).


(iv) Facial Features:

Markhors have a concave facial profile, and males often develop a thick neck mane during the rutting season. Their faces may have a beard, and their eyes are positioned on the sides of their head, providing a wide field of view.


(v) Body Shape:

They have a sturdy and well-muscled build, adapted for climbing and navigating rocky terrain. Their legs are relatively short but powerful, and they have split hooves that aid in maintaining balance on uneven surfaces.


(vi) Tail:

The tail is short and inconspicuous, often blending with the body coat.


(vii) Scent:

Males have a pungent smell that surpasses that of domestic goats.


(viii) Sexual Dimorphism:

Sexual dimorphism is evident in Markhors, with males being larger and having the prominent, spiraled horns. Females are generally smaller, and their horns are shorter and straighter. Males have longer hair on the chin, throat, chest, and shanks. Females are redder in color, have shorter hair, a short black beard, and are maneless.



6. Diet:

Q. What do Markhor eat?

Markhors are herbivores, and their diet primarily consists of a variety of vegetation that is available in their mountainous habitats. Here are some key aspects of the Markhor's diet:


i. Grasses:

Markhors graze on a variety of grasses that grow in their mountainous environments. Grasses provide a significant portion of their diet, especially in areas where they are abundant.


ii. Leaves:

They also consume leaves from shrubs and trees. Markhors are adapted to browse on a range of plant materials to meet their nutritional needs.


iii. Shrubs:

Shrubs and bushes in their habitat contribute to the Markhor's diet. They may feed on the leaves and tender shoots of these plants.


iv. Herbs:

Markhors may include various herbs in their diet, depending on the availability of different plant species in their habitat.



7. Behavior:

Markhors exhibit various behaviors that are adapted to their mountainous habitats and social structures. Here are some key aspects of Markhor behavior:


(i) Social Structure:

Markhors are social animals and are typically found in small groups. These groups are often segregated by gender, with males forming bachelor groups and females leading herds with their young.


(ii) Territorial Behavior:

Male Markhors are known for their territorial behavior, especially during the breeding season. They may engage in displays of dominance, using their horns to establish hierarchy and access to mating opportunities.


(iii) Diurnal Behavior:

Markhors are diurnal, meaning they are mainly active during the day. Their peak activity occurs in the early morning and late afternoon.


(iv) Agility and Climbing:

Markhors are highly agile climbers, and their physical adaptations allow them to navigate steep and rocky terrain with ease. Their split hooves provide stability on uneven surfaces, making them well-suited for life in the mountains.


(v) Seasonal Diet Shifts:

Markhors exhibit seasonal changes in their diet. During spring and summer, they graze on grasses, while in winter, they shift to browsing, feeding on leaves and sometimes standing on their hind legs to reach high branches.


(vi) Alarm Call:

The alarm call of Markhors closely resembles the bleating of domestic goats, which serves as a warning signal to alert others in the group of potential threats.


(vii) Seasonal Movements:

In early seasons, both males and females may be found together in open grassy patches. During the summer, males remain in the forest, while females climb to the highest rocky ridges. In the spring, females stay closer to cliffs for protection, while males seek higher elevated areas for foraging.


(viii) Resting and Shelter:

Markhors seek shelter in rocky outcrops and caves, where they can rest and find protection from predators and harsh weather conditions.



8. Reproduction:

Markhors have distinct reproductive behaviors and a reproductive cycle that is influenced by seasonal factors. Here are key aspects of Markhor reproduction:


(i) Mating Season (Rut):

The mating season, or rut, occurs during winter, typically from late November to early January. This is the time when males become highly active in seeking mates, engaging in displays, and competing with each other for access to females.


(ii) Male Competitions:

During the rut, male Markhors engage in aggressive behaviors to establish dominance and access to females. This includes lunging, locking horns, and attempting to push each other off balance. The corkscrew-shaped horns are crucial in these dominance displays.


(iii) Mate Selection:

Female Markhors choose mates based on the displays of dominance and strength exhibited by males during the rutting season. The competition among males helps determine the hierarchy within the population.


(iv) Gestation Period:

Q. What is the gestation period of Markhor?

After successful mating, the gestation period lasts approximately 135–170 days.


(v) Birth of Kids:

The birthing season usually occurs in late spring or early summer, with the birth of one to two kids, occasionally three. Females give birth in areas with rock coverage to provide protection for their offspring.


(vi) Parental Care:

Adult females play a significant role in providing care for their offspring. They stay close to cliffs in the spring, seeking areas with more rock coverage to protect their young from potential predators.



9. Lifespan:

Q. How long do Markhors live?

The lifespan of Markhors in the wild is estimated to be around 10 to 13 years. However, various factors can influence their longevity, and lifespans may vary among individuals based on environmental conditions, access to resources, and the presence of predators or other threats.


The challenges posed by predators, such as the Eurasian lynx, snow leopard, Himalayan wolf, and brown bear, are significant factors that can impact the survival and lifespan of Markhors. Their ability to detect and evade these predators, coupled with other factors like disease and food availability, contributes to the overall dynamics of their populations.




Markhor in India

Q. Is Markhor found in India?/Is markhor found in Kashmir?/In which national park is Markhor found?

Kashmir Markhor, a subspecies of Markhor, is found only in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in India. Previously believed to be extinct in the country, the Markhor was rediscovered following a comprehensive survey initiated by the Wildlife Trust of India in 2005.


The Kashmir Markhor has been identified in several specific areas within the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, India. These regions include:


1. Kazinag National Park (Baramulla District): Located near the Line of Control (LoC), Kazinag National Park serves as a crucial habitat for the Markhor. The Kajinag National Park currently hosts around 250 Markhors, demonstrating a stable population. The park's diverse landscapes provide suitable conditions for the survival and conservation of this magnificent mountain goat.


2. Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary (Shopian District): Situated in the northern slopes of the Pir Panjal mountain range, Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary is another vital area where the Markhor has been observed. Conservation efforts in this sanctuary aim to sustain and protect the Markhor population in this region.


Additionally, there are other wildlife sanctuaries in Jammu and Kashmir where the Markhor may be found:


3. Lachipora Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary, located in the Kupwara district, contribute to the conservation of the Markhor in the region.


4. Limber Wildlife Sanctuary: Situated in the Baramulla district, Limber Wildlife Sanctuary also serve as a habitat for the Markhor.


5. Tatakuti Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary, known for its diverse flora and fauna, is another area where the Markhor are find.


The presence of the Markhor in these wildlife sanctuaries highlights the importance of diverse conservation efforts across different regions of Jammu and Kashmir. 


The overall Markhor population in Jammu and Kashmir is estimated to be around 450, reflecting the success of conservation measures.


Recognizing the importance of conserving this endangered species, the Markhor Recovery Project was launched in 2009. This collaborative initiative involves the wildlife department, local communities, herders, and the Indian Army, aiming to protect and sustain the Markhor population in the region.




Markhor Protection Status

The Markhor (Capra falconeri) holds a significant conservation status with legal protections. Here are the key aspects of its protection status:


1. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (India):

The Markhor is listed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which is a legislative measure in India aimed at safeguarding wildlife. Schedule-I includes species that receive the highest level of protection, and offenses related to these species are subjected to severe penalties. The inclusion of the Markhor in Schedule-I reflects its critical conservation status in India.


2. IUCN Status:

The Markhor is categorized as "Near Threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The "Near Threatened" designation indicates that the species is at risk of becoming threatened with extinction in the near future.




Markhor Conservation

The conservation of the Markhor involves a multi-faceted approach that addresses various challenges faced by this endangered species. Conservation efforts are crucial to safeguard their populations, preserve their habitats, and mitigate threats. Here are key components of Markhor conservation:


(i) Legal Protections:

In India, the Markhor is listed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, providing legal protection and stringent penalties for offenses related to this species.


(ii) Habitat Protection and Management:

Preserving and managing the natural habitats of Markhors, such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, are critical. This includes controlling habitat degradation, ensuring proper land-use planning, and managing human-wildlife conflicts.


(iii) Expansion and Corridor Creation:

Efforts are made to expand protected areas, including the extension of the Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary. New areas and corridors are identified to enhance connectivity and promote the recovery of the Markhor population.


(iv) Monitoring and Surveys:

WTI has been actively monitoring different sites, assessing the impact of livestock on Markhor habitats, and conducting occupancy surveys. The project team engages with local communities and migratory herders to gather information and address conservation needs.


(v) Community Engagement:

WTI is working closely with local communities and migratory herders to reduce grazing pressure on Markhor habitats. Awareness programs are conducted to increase understanding and support for Markhor conservation.


(vi) Anti-Poaching Measures:

Implementing effective anti-poaching measures is crucial to combat illegal hunting and trade of Markhors. Networks of informers are established to control poaching activities. Anti-poaching measures are crucial for protecting the Markhor in its habitat. This involves strengthening law enforcement, employing modern surveillance technologies, and collaborating with local communities to act as guardians of the species.


(vii) Research and Monitoring:

Continuous research on Markhor populations, their behavior, and their habitats is essential for informed conservation strategies. Monitoring programs help assess population trends, identify threats, and adapt conservation efforts accordingly.


(viii) Transboundary Conservation:

Given the range of Markhor populations across international borders, cooperation among countries is vital. Collaborative efforts and agreements facilitate transboundary conservation initiatives, ensuring a holistic approach to protecting the species.


(ix) Education and Awareness:

Educating the public, stakeholders, and local communities about the ecological importance of Markhors and the need for their conservation helps build support. Awareness programs contribute to changing attitudes and behaviors that may pose threats to the species.


(x) Rehabilitation and Reintroduction:

Rehabilitation and reintroduction programs may be considered to strengthen existing populations and establish new ones. These programs should be conducted with careful planning, taking into account genetic diversity, suitable habitats, and potential threats.




Threats

Q. Why is Markhor in danger?/What are the dangers that the Markhor faces?/Why is Markhor endangered?

The Markhor faces several threats that have contributed to the decline of its population and the shrinking of its habitat. Identifying and addressing these threats are crucial for the conservation and survival of this endangered species. Here are some of the key threats to the Markhor:


(i) Habitat Loss and Fragmentation:

The expansion of human settlements, agricultural activities, and infrastructure development has led to habitat loss and fragmentation. Roads, dams, and other construction projects can disrupt the natural habitat of Markhors, limiting their range and access to resources.


(ii) Livestock Grazing:

Intensive grazing by domestic livestock in the same habitats used by Markhors can lead to competition for food resources. Overgrazing puts pressure on the vegetation, impacting the availability of suitable forage for Markhors.


(iii) Human-Wildlife Conflict:

Encroachment into Markhor habitats often leads to increased interactions with humans. These interactions can result in conflicts, as Markhors may damage crops, and humans may pose a threat to the species. Retaliatory killings by communities can further exacerbate the conflict.


(iv) Poaching:

Illegal hunting and poaching for their impressive horns and meat pose a significant threat to Markhor populations. The horns are sought after for their perceived medicinal and ornamental value, leading to targeted poaching despite legal protections.


(v) Infrastructure Development:

The construction of roads, dams, and other infrastructure projects can directly impact Markhor habitats. In particular, the Mughal road and power transmission lines have been highlighted as threats in the region.


(vi) Insurgency:

Insurgency in the region also poses a threat to Markhors. The security situation can affect conservation efforts, and measures need to be taken to address these challenges.


(vii) Lack of Enforcement and Manpower:

Inadequate enforcement of laws and a lack of manpower for protection contribute to the challenges faced by wildlife managers. Effective protection and conservation require strong enforcement measures and adequate personnel.


(viii) Climate Change:

Climate change can alter the distribution of vegetation and impact the availability of suitable habitats for Markhors. Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns may affect the quality and quantity of forage.


(ix) Shifts in Herding Practices:

Economic considerations and changes in traditional herding practices have led to increased pressure on Markhor habitats. Bona fide herders shifting to non-traditional practices may contribute to heightened livestock pressure in critical areas.


(x) Transmission of Diseases:

The transmission of diseases from domestic livestock to Markhors can pose a threat to their health. Diseases introduced by livestock can have detrimental effects on the already vulnerable Markhor populations.




Markhor UPSC Question

Q. What is Markhor?

A. The Markhor (Capra falconeri) is a large and distinctive wild goat species native to mountainous regions of Central Asia. Markhors are known for their impressive spiral horns, which can grow to remarkable lengths. 



Q. What is Markhor also known as?

A. The markhor is also known as the "screw-horn" or screw-horned goat.



Q. Which countries have Markhor?

A. The Markhor (Capra falconeri) is primarily found in the mountainous regions of Central Asia. The countries where Markhor populations are known to exist include:

  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
  • India
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan



Q. Which country has the most Markhor?

A. Pakistan is recognized as the country with the largest population of Markhor (Capra falconeri).



Q. Is Markhor a deer?

A. No, the Markhor (Capra falconeri) is not a deer; it is a type of wild goat. Markhors belong to the genus Capra, which also includes domestic goats and other wild goat species. While both deer and goats are part of the order Artiodactyla, they belong to different families.



Q. Why is Markhor called snake eater?

A. The term "Markhor" is derived from the Persian language, where "mar" means snake or serpent, and "khor" means eater or consumer. The Markhor is sometimes colloquially referred to as the "snake eater" due to a traditional belief that it preys on snakes. However, it's important to note that the Markhor's diet primarily consists of vegetation, including grasses, leaves, and other plant materials.


The association with snakes might be rooted in folklore or local beliefs. In reality, Markhors are not known to be significant predators of snakes. Their name likely reflects cultural narratives or myths, emphasizing the ruggedness and fearlessness of the Markhor, rather than a specific dietary preference for snakes. The unique name adds to the mystique and cultural significance of this remarkable wild goat species in the regions where it is found.



Q. Markhor is the national animal of which country?

A. The Markhor (Capra falconeri) is the national animal of Pakistan. It holds special cultural and ecological significance in the country, and its inclusion as the national animal reflects its importance as a symbol of wildlife and conservation in Pakistan. 



Q. How many Markhor are left in the world?

A. The worldwide population of Markhor (Capra falconeri) is estimated to be around 5,000 individuals.

Markhor

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