Life on the Edge
The markhor is a distinctive wild goat easily identified by it’s long winter coat and enormous spiraled horns that can grow to more than 1.5 meters in length on the males. Well adapted for their alpine habitat, hard and broadly spreading hoofs help make them excellent climbers that can live on a cliff-edge. This affords them some protection from threats such as wolves, lynxes, snow leopards, and humans.
Their feeding habits and extreme climbing skills also make them difficult to keep in zoos. Creating sizeable habitats that can satisfy the needs of this species, be attractive to zoo visitors, and contain this escape artist can be quite challenging. Because of this, the number of markhor found in zoos has been continuously declining.
Conservation in Action
Markhor are threatened throughout their range. The Tadjik markor (Capra falconeri heptneri) is the most endangered of the subspecies and is found only in easternmost Turkmenistan. Long-term survival of this species may well depend on reintroductions from captive populations. Due to its specialized husbandry requirements and need for space, the markhor is an ideal target species for the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2). Thus, the Source Population Alliance, a program of C2S2, is working to rapidly increase the size of the captive population on private ranches as a security measure and to eventually contribute to reintroduction.