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But Tajikistan’s markhor populations are still fragmented and many areas which could provide suitable habitat do not have any markhor left. Some of the markhor groups live in close proximity of domestic sheep and goats, risking picking up contagious diseases. From such a pneumonia outbreak in 2010 more than 60 markhor died within a few days, reducing the local population by about one third. Knowing about the need to expand the areas where markhor and the not less rare urial sheep are protected by local communities and to increase their numbers to a level that local disease outbreaks, predators or natural disasters would not present a risk to the entire population anymore, we have been looking for local people who know the animals and are willing to protect them. Hakim has shown us horns and skulls at the village’s graveyard, and now we are sitting close to the cliff, looking together to see if we still can find some live markhor in the mountains. Evening is coming, and so far we have not seen anything moving in the cliff except a pair of golden eagles and some bearded vultures. Even no “keklik” stepped into Hakim’s snares. So we have time to hear his stories, that his father, still in the 1960s during one of his hunts for the urial sheep, that at the time was still numerous in these mountains met a leopard for the last time. We think about the chances that leopards may come back if we manage to rehabilitate the markhor and urial populations. Hakim is not entirely sure if the other villagers would appreciate this too much. But he can imagine that this would not be a major issue, as the villagers’ concerns are certainly rather focused on issues like the poor shape of the ground road to the village, the shortage of income opportunities and the lack of a drinking water supply system, which forces them to carry water canisters from a spring over several kilometers on donkey. It is now dusk and we scan the cliffs again and again. We hear some stones falling and my colleague Khalil sees something moving. He BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q1/Q2 • 2016 11


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