The endangered spiral-horned markhor goat might be the national animal of Pakistan, but every year the government grants licenses for a handful to be shot, usually by rich foreign hunters who can pay the $100,000 per trophy.
This year was no exception, with reports of two American hunters shooting the rare goat in the northern mountains of Pakistan.
Markhors are prized for their famous horns, which can reach 45 inches in height—with the record topping out at 60 inches over a century ago. Poachers kill them to sell the horns into the Asian medicine market.
With estimates of a population only around 6,000 in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan, markhors are protected by law in Pakistan.
An American trophy hunter named as John Amistoco paid $100,000 for one of the four permits granted by the regional government, reported local newspaper Dawn on Jan. 14. The paper carried an image of Amistoco along with the carcass of a markhor.
Amistoco is a member of trophy hunting organization Grand Slam Club Ovis, which displays past photographs of Amistoco posing with dead markhors and other trophies. The club said it is ” an organization of hunter/conservationists dedicated to improving and perpetuating wild sheep and goat populations worldwide.”
American hunts a markhor in Chitral for $92,000.An American tourist has hunted a markhor in Chitral for $92,000.The…
In the nearby Chitral region, Pamir Times reported that another American hunter had paid $92,000 to hunt a markhor with 44-inch horns. Another hunter, from New Zealand, reportedly fired thrice but missed.
The hunting expeditions are monitored by village representatives, as well as government officials.
The local Gilgit-Bunji government issued licenses for other animals, including 14 blue sheep ($8,000) and 95 ibex ($3,600), with trophy hunters coming from Denmark, Turkey, the United States, and Spain.
Shooting markhors without a license also carries a high price tag too. Last year, a poacher was ordered to pay $175, 650 compensation for killing two markhors and was sentenced to jail for two years, according to Dawn.
The National Parks of Pakistan said in a statement, “Annually, four hunting trophy licenses are issued for markhor hunting and 80 percent of the money collected is distributed among the local community, whereas 20 percent is kept by the wildlife department.”
The four licenses are granted for only one male and for overage markhors.
Some hunting groups claim that the introduction of sanctioned hunting of the markhor in 1998 saved the ailing population, lifting it from a low-point of 200 in 1984, when political unrest and military action laid waste to the already weak population.
But some campaign groups, such as Born Free, are opposed to all trophy hunting. Born Free labels it as a “cruel throwback to a colonial past,” arguing that it disrupts animal societies and has hidden knock-on effects for populations and ecosystems.
A post on Huntshack defends the practice of markhor hunting.
“Despite the Disney images of the animal kingdom, these older males do not live out their golden years in peace, dying peacefully under a tree surrounded by a loving herd. Instead, they often die of starvation because their teeth are so badly worn down they can no longer feed properly, they become easy game for predators, or they are challenged, defeated and killed by the younger males,” it states on its website.
According to discover wildlife, the United States legally imports 126,000 animal trophies every year, and the EU some 11,000–12,000.
Countries take different approaches to legal trophy hunting. In Kenya, all trophy hunting has been banned since 1977, whereas South Africa allows trophy hunting of the Big Five species: the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo.