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Goats on the Border
Published by M. K. Ranjitsinh, C. M. Seth, Riyaz Ahmad, Yash Veer Bhatnagar and Sunil Subba Kyarong, 15 Dec 2007
A Rapid Assessment of the Pir Panjal Markhor in Jammu and Kashmir: Distribution, Status and Threats. A first ever survey of the markhor was jointly conducted by the Wildlife Trust of India, the J&K Forest department, and the Nature Conservation Foundation with support from the Ecology and Environment Cell of the Indian Army.
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The markhor is the largest wild goat in the world. It is also one of the most elusive large mammals
in India. Not only has it never been studied rigorously but even a good photograph of the animal
is not available. This realization dawned on me while I was writing the Field Guide to Indian
Mammals when the final photo options were three photographs, all taken in Pakistan. Luckily, we
found one of the Pir Panjal markhor, the animal that occurs within our limits as well. This
elusiveness was the same when I tried to research census data or distribution. The most I could
find was an old shikar map of Kashmir Valley, sixty years old, that tried to block-shade areas that
had the markhor.

It is, therefore, a personal thrill for me to have overseen the conduct of the first-ever markhor
survey for the country in conjunction with the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Department. It was
equally a high as this survey formally launched the Schaller Conservation Surveys, a dedication to
the foremost wildlife biologist of the world, Dr George Schaller who has been a personal inspiration
to me. This survey was made possible in part by the money that Dr Schaller gave so spontaneously
to the Wildlife Trust of India over a year ago when he was given an international award by the
Bombay Natural History Society at its gala centenary celebrations for its journal. Dr Schaller
wanted the money to remain in India and do some good for Indian wildlife. I hope this survey has
proved equal to his aspirations.

There is a third, less obvious reason for celebration. This survey was conducted through the
collaboration of four institutions—WTI, The Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Department (under the
vigorous and inspiring leadership of Mr. C.M.Seth), the Indian Army's Ecology Cell and the Nature
Conservation Foundation (and our scientific leader Yash Veer Bhatnagar). While the former chief
of Army General Malik was an Advisor to the project, eminent conservationist and WTI Trustee Dr
M.K.Ranjitsinh conceptualized the whole project. Our two wonderfully tough field officers, Riyaz
and Sunil, then carried out the most demanding project that WTI has undertaken this year—a two
and a half month trek along the LoC. The area is known for conflicts, disputes, shelling and
casualty and not for counting goats. This survey has shown that this too is possible—for those who
will.

Note to second edition:
This second edition gives me the opportunity to have a fourth reason for celebration. This report
has turned out to be one of those that we have published that has had immediate and very visible
conservation outcomes. If the declaration of the Kaj-i-Nag National Park and the enlargement of
the Hirapora WLS is in some way reliant on the findings of this report, I find it extremely
heartening for it justifies the existence of WTI and its conservation mandate. Our research must
serve tangible conservation outcomes and that is what is strived for in each and every one of our
projects. Often it is not possible. However, whenever it happens, it is an occasion to celebrate and
in this the prime kudos must go the agency responsible for this bit of positive action- the Jammu
and Kashmir Wildlife Department. To them go the kudos, while we in the conservation fraternity
can be happy that our efforts have paid off in protecting both this magnificent species and its
enchanting home.
Vivek Menon
Executive Director
Wildlife Trust of India
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