The International Union for Conservation of Nature has been assessing the conservation status of species, subspecies, varieties, and even selected subpopulations on a global scale for the past 50 years in order to highlight taxa threatened with extinction, and thereby promote their conservation. The flagship tool of IUCN in this context is the Red List of Threatened Species, which regularly reassesses species to monitor their conservation status.
At each Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 2008, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) has recognized conservation successes through the sustainable use of wildlife with its Markhor Award.
In 2010, at the CBD COP in Nagoya, Japan, the prize was awarded to the Torghar project in Pakistan (which originally is also the origin of the CIC prize name). The Torghar Community Conservation Project succeeded in bringing back—from near extinction–the Suleiman Markhor (Capra falconeri jedroni) alongside with significant increases in Afghan urial (Ovis vignei cycloceros) through the empowerment of local communities in managing their lands and their wildlife resources. The targeted sustainable use through trophy hunting generated income for local communities to finance wildlife conservation and community needs.
In 2014, the CIC Markhor Prize was awarded to a cluster of communities in Tajikistan. They were able to improve the conservation status of another Markhor subspecies, the Bukharan Markhor (aka as Tajik or Heptner’s Markhor, Capra falconeri heptneri), again through the combination of community empowerment and organized sustainable trophy hunting targeting only mature males. These two conservation highlights are complimented by the improved status of the Kashmir Markhor (C. f. cashmiriensis) and the Astore Markhor (C. f. falconeri) in the northern regions of Pakistan. Here also, trophy hunting played a significant role in incentivizing local communities to bring back key wildlife species from the brink. Hand in hand with expanding and increasing markhor populations throughout the region goes a remarkable recovery of snow leopard (Uncia uncia) – a predator which uses markhor, ibex and wild sheep as main prey species.
Just days ago, IUCN, published the results of the Red List reassessment of Markhor confirming that the hard conservation work has paid off: Markhor are now classified with the lower level threat-level “near threatened” (as compared to previously higher threat level “vulnerable”)! This official recognition by IUCN, the world authority in matters of species conservation, is a powerful encouragement to continue the work on sustainable community based natural resource management (CBNRM) on the basis of income generating trophy hunting of a few mature male markhor.