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starts to take a video without actually seeing what creature he is filming. After few minutes it is too dark to see anything and we take shelter in our tent. We scan the clips taken and cannot believe our eyes! Khalil had managed to film three probably female markhor moving from their hideout in a little cave over the ledges of the cliff towards the bushes. In the dark we still hear some stones rolling from the cliff where the markhor browse. The other day we found another group of markhor at a different location, this time at dawn, and again on the video we can identify a female with two kids and a young male! By identifying these tiny groups we know, we have made a first step in our attempt to create a community-based conservancy for markhor! Hakim is even more excited and obviously proud. He takes his “keklik” into the pocket of his jacket and we march back over the mountains to the village. Over the next weeks and months he will talk to other villagers, our team will come back, search more thoroughly in the wider area, talk to other hunters and assist them to protect the markhor and the urial for their own interest, in the hope that their children and grandchildren will see not only the bleached skulls at the graveyard, but see herds of both species in the mountains just behind their villages. The project Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund generously supports in cooperation with the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) contributes to this and will hopefully lead to the recovery of markhor in so far unprotected range areas where the species is close to extinction. Hakim and other traditional hunters will use this support to form their own organization, identify the area where markhor can live and will request the Forest Agency to get this area assigned as their conservancy. Bisbee’s will also help them with the procurement of essential equipment to survey markhor and urial and to find poachers and stop them before they can cause harm. Hopefully in a few years markhor numbers will be large enough to host hunting tourists and Hakim’s village will be able to build a water pipeline from the spring. The recent IUCN Red List assessed the status of markhor as “Near Threatened”. This is a substantial improvement of population numbers. The species does not any longer meet the criteria for any of the Red List categories applied to species that are threatened by extinction. However, it is still close to this and the markhor depends on protection by local people that refrain from illegal hunting and stop poachers from outside, motivated by the benefits they can earn from regulated and legal trophy hunting. The Bisbee’s and GLAZA project will help to create new such community based areas and thus help that the markhor does not again becomes threatened but further recovers in numbers and distribution range. The urial sheep, the entire ecosystem and the local communities will all benefit from this effort and possibly even the leopard will find its way back to these mountains in southern Tajikistan. 14 BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q1/Q2 • 2016


BCJ_Q1/2_2016
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