SRINAGAR, July 9: The population of a rare mountain goat has steadily increased after a ceasefire agreed between the Indian and Pakistani armies in 2003 along the Kashmir border that runs through the goat’s habitat.
The markhor (Capra falconeri) was scared away or fell victim to regular artillery duels between Indian and Pakistani troops along the LoC and had not been seen for years before the truce was declared, wildlife officials say.
The markhor, sporting a shaggy winter coat ranging from light brown to black, is the world’s largest species of goat with trademark spiralling horns that can grow more than a metre long. That also makes the animal prized for traditional Asian medicine.
“The recent and the first authentic census in Qazinag park shows the presence of at least 300 animals. This is a very significant number,” said a wildlife official responsible for the high-altitude markhor sanctuary.
A 2005 survey by wildlife experts sighted only 115 markhors in the area.
“One of the main reasons behind the markhor’s comeback is peace on the border,” the official added.
“I am sure on the other side of the LoC (Pakistani Kashmir), the population has also increased. Now the only worry about the markhor’s future is the electrified fence along the LoC.”
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands wounded on both sides of the frontier during artillery duels that ended in 2003.
The army built a three-metre-high (10 feet) barbed wire fence along much of the LoC to stop incursions of separatist militants from Pakistani Kashmir. The fence passes through the markhor’s natural habitat.
The goat lives in semi-arid cliffside mountain areas of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Hunted for its horns, hoofs and meat for years, it is listed as endangered by wildlife conservation groups.