Pakistan celebrates first International Markhor Day

May 24, 2024, marks the first ‘International Day of the Markhor.’ This day is dedicated to celebrating Pakistan’s iconic national animal, known for their distinctive twisted horns.

This new international day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) earlier this month, recognizing the ecological importance of preserving the Markhor and its habitat.

The resolution to establish this day, sponsored by Pakistan and eight other countries, was adopted on May 2, 2024, emphasizing the need to protect the Markhor, which was categorized as “near threatened” in 2014, due to its crucial role in the ecosystem.

Known for their distinctive corkscrew-shaped horns, Markhors inhabit the mountainous regions of Central and South Asia, including Pakistan. They are skilled climbers, able to traverse steep, almost vertical terrain at elevations between 600 and 3,500 meters. The greatest threats to their survival include habitat loss, illegal hunting, and climate change.

Markhors – Pakistan’s national treasure

“Markhors have long been Pakistan’s national treasure. Today, they have also become the world’s treasure,” said Mohamed Yahya, the UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan. “Not only do Markhors play a crucial role in the ecosystem, but they offer a significant opportunity to bolster the economy, foster conservation efforts, and promote sustainable tourism and economic growth, in line with the Government’s ‘Living Indus’ initiative which the United Nations supports.”

Pakistan’s ‘Living Indus’ initiative, aimed at protecting and restoring the environment, was designated a ‘World Restoration Flagship’ project by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in February this year. The initiative, led by the Government of Pakistan and supported by the United Nations, underscores the nation’s commitment to ecological preservation and sustainable development.

Thanks to Pakistan’s proactive conservation programs and community engagement, the Markhor population has been increasing over the past decade, now numbering between 3,500 and 5,000. However, globally, their numbers are declining, with less than 6,000 mature individuals remaining.

The UN resolution encourages people worldwide to celebrate this day and support conservation efforts, highlighting the importance of international and regional cooperation.

Key Facts about Markhor

  • Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan.
  • There are approximately 5,700 mature individual markhors in the world.
  • The markhor’s most distinctive feature is its tightly curled, corkscrew-like horns, which can grow as long as up to 63 inches.
  • Markhor can be found in mountainous terrain, between 600 and 3,600 meters elevation, with open woodlands, scrublands, and light forests.

Interesting fact: The name ‘Markhor’ (مارخور) means ‘snake-eater’ in Pashto and Persian languages. This comes from the ancient belief that these wild goats could hunt and eat snakes, inspired by their snake-like, twisted horns. (Source: WWF)

The markhor (Capra falconeri) is a distinctive and ecologically vital species found in the mountainous regions of Central and South Asia, including Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

These magnificent goats face severe threats such as habitat loss, illegal hunting, and climate change. Classified as “near threatened” in 2014, the markhor is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Preserving the markhor and its natural habitat is crucial for ecological balance and also offers a significant opportunity to enhance the regional economy. Conservation efforts can encourage sustainable tourism, drive economic growth, and benefit the broader ecosystem.

Sana Jamal
Storyteller. Avid Reader. Learner to the core.

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