Pakistan celebrates first ‘International Day of Markhor’

Afshan S. Khan
Friday, May 24, 2024

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is observing the first-ever celebration of ‘International Day of the Markhor,’ proclaimed by the United Nations earlier this month.

On May 2 this year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution, sponsored by Pakistan and eight other countries, proclaiming May 24 as the ‘International Day of the Markhor’.

The UN recognises that preserving the Markhor, which was categorised as “near threatened” in 2014, and its natural habitat is an ecological imperative, given the animal’s role in the overall ecosystem.

“Markhors have long been Pakistan’s national treasure. Today, they have also become a 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.”

The Markhor population in Pakistan has kept increasing for the past 10 years, reaching between 3,500 and 5,000 due to the country’s proactive conservation programmes, and community engagement. Around the world, however, their numbers are declining -- there are less than 6,000 mature individuals across the planet today.

Famous for its long corkscrew-shaped horns, this iconic and ecologically significant species can be found across the mountainous regions of Central and South Asia, including in Pakistan. The greatest threats to its survival are habitat loss, illegal hunting, including poaching, and climate change.

A skilled climber, the Markhor can traverse slanted, almost vertical mountainous terrain and can be found between 600 and 3,500 meters in elevation. The resolution invites people from all over the world to celebrate that day and encourages conservation efforts, while highlighting the importance of continued international and regional cooperation.

Pakistan’s ‘Living Indus’ initiative, which aims to protect and restore the environment, was designated a ‘World Restoration Flagship’ project by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in February this year. It is led by the government of Pakistan and supported by the United Nations.