My friend Don Wall made a trip to Pakistan in 2018 in pursuit of a Markhor goat in the mountains of Kashmir. He told me he had undertaken this odyssey while we were at SEWE 2020 before the Chinese virus hit and changed the world. I have known about the Markhor for many years – the reason being that many of my African hunting clients over the years were also Sheep Hunters and for those of you that may think that these guys are just another group of hunters you are rather mistaken. Sheep hunters are crazy! Alive or half-dead they go and climb the toughest terrain to pursue the various types of sheep and goats that inhabit the high mountains of the world.
I would say that the Markhor and the Marco Polo or Altai Agali sheep tops the list of the most desirable of all the various species found in the high places of the world. However despite the desire to hunt one of these animals they were off limits to hunters in all the areas that these magnificent animals call home. The Astor subspecies inhabits the mountains of Kashmir in Pakistan and there is another very spectacular subspecies in Tajikistan called the Bukharan Markhor.
These animals were on the brink of extinction in their home range due to illicit hunting by meat hunters. I think I need to make a point here – if I was living in those environments where poverty is as normal as the thin air they breathe, I too would hunt to feed my family or to sell the spoils of the hunt to survive. Fortunately for the Markhor, an American university professor persuaded the various Governments of those countries where the Markhor are found to allow foreign hunters a very limited quota at a very high fee and in the case of the Kashmir Markhor where Don hunted, 80% of the fee for the animal hunted is paid to the local community.
One easy lesson for those people who are against hunting, the Markhor population throughout their range has exploded! Now they are protected by the very people that poached them only a few years ago. From rags to riches has turned the Markhor into a precious resource and in one easy step these animals have already recovered from certain decimation to a burgeoning population of majestic mountain creatures.
Hunting in many places of the world has saved many species from total destruction. The Markhor is just one and the Black Rhino in Namibia is another. The purpose of all this is to say thank you Don Wall – you helped save a magnificent animal and then commissioned me to sculpt it. Great challenge and we love the result. Think we could do the same for the Snow Leopard so it too can enjoy this type of protection?