Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creature of the month: The Markhor

The Markhor (Capra falconeri) is a large species of wild goat that is found in northeastern Afghanistan, Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan, Hunza-Nagar Valley, northern and central Pakistan, and some parts of Jammu and Kashmir), India, southern Tajikistan and southern Uzbekistan. The species is classed by the IUCN as Endangered, as there are fewer than 2,500 mature individuals which continued to decline by an estimated 20% over 2 generations. The Markhor is the National Animal of Pakistan.The colloquial name is thought by some to be derived from the Persian word mar, meaning snake, and khor, meaning "eater", which is sometimes interpreted to either represent the species' ability to kill snakes, or as a reference to its corkscrewing horns, which are somewhat reminiscent of coiling snakes. As the folklore goes, Markhor has the ability to kill a snake and eat it. Thereafter while chewing the cud, a foam like substance comes out of its mouth which drops on ground and dries. This foam like substance is sought after by the local people who believe it is useful in extracting snake poison from snake bitten wounds.
Markhor stand 65 to 115 centimetres (26 to 45 in)
at the shoulder, 132 to 186 centimetres (52 to 73 in) in length and weigh from 32 to 110 kilograms (71 to 240 lb). The mating season takes place in winter, during
which, the males fight each other by lunging, locking horns and attempt to push each other off balance. The gestation period lasts 135–170 days, and usually result in the birth of one or two kids, though rarely three. Markhor live in flocks, usually numbering nine animals, composed of adult females and their young. Adult males are largely solitary. Their alarm call closely resembles the bleating of domestic goats. Early in the season the males and females may be found together on the open grassy patches and clear slopes among the forest. During the summer, the males remain in the forest, while the females generally climb to the highest rocky ridges above.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has classified the Markhor as an endangered species, meaning it is in danger of facing extinction in the near future if conservation efforts are not maintained. Numbers between 2,000 and 4,000 exist in the wild.

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