The loss of global biodiversity is increasingly causing major concern. This concern is most prominently embodied in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Conference of the Parties (CoP) is the governing body of this Convention, and advances its implementation through the decisions it takes every two years at its meetings.
In 2008, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC)1 endowed the Markhor Award2 (read more here). This award is presented bi-annually at the CBD-CoP to personalities, institutions, enterprises or conservation projects that link the conservation of biodiversity and human livelihood through the application of the principles of sustainable use, in particular hunting as part of wildlife and ecosystem management; in short, the Markhor Award recognizes and celebrates outstanding conservation performance through sustainable use.
This excellence accolade recognizes environmental and conservation leaders, who are solving challenges in the field of conservation of biodiversity by creating partnerships and by using sustainable, innovative practices, including hunting. Robert Kenward, then CBD Secretary General, recognized the importance of the CIC initiative by saying “I welcome the initiative … [of the CIC] to use the markhor as its flagship species for the award to honor conservation projects that are community based and that successfully use hunting as a tool for rural development”.
The Markhor Award was presented the first time in 2008 on occasion of the 9th CoP of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn/Germany and the joint laureates were the Selous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor in Tanzania and the Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique (read more here).
The Niassa National Reserve is Mozambique’s largest conservation area, funded mainly through sustainable hunting tourism. The 1-million-hectare Selous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor, on communal land but also under the management of communities, links the Niassa Reserve with Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve. The 29 villages of the corridor organized themselves in 5 Community Based Organizations and created their own conservation area with hunting tourism is their first option to gain economic benefits from conserving the natural environment (read more here).
The 2010 Markhor Award laureate was the Torghar Conservation Program (TCP) of the Society for Torghar Environmental Protection (STEP) in Pakistan (Balochistan Province). The award ceremony took place during the 10th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity CBD, CoP 10) in Nagoya, Japan (read more here).
TCP is arguably the most successful community based Caprinae conservation project in Pakistan and possibly worldwide. US wildlife biologists provided the original technical input and developed a sustainable use model which would bring measurable benefits to the local population. Thanks to rigorous efforts of the STEP team the Torghar project eventually emerged as an exemplary model of successful conservation through sustainable use (Damm & Franco, 2014).
There were estimated 200 Afghan urial (Ovis vignei cycloceros) and less than 100 straight-horned markhor (Capra falconeri jerdoni) in the area when the program started in 1985 (FAO 2006). This exemplary success was confirmed on October 6th 2014, when the US Fish & Wildlife Service announced that the straight-horned markhor (Kabul Markhor – Capra falconeri megaceros and Suleiman Markhor – Capra falconeri jerdoni combined as straight-horned markhor C. f. megaceros) have been downlisted from endangered to threatened. Today, the Torghar markhor population exceeds 3,500 individuals as a direct result of the Torghar Conservation Project. USF&WS cited the CIC Caprinae Atlas of the World by Gerhard Damm and Nicolas Franco repeatedly in substantiating the downlisting. The project has not only resulted in a spectacular recovery of the markhor and urial populations, but also of other mammalian species, and of the habitat.
The 2012 Markhor Award went back to the African continent and was adjudicated jointly to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organization (NACSO). The two entities were decorated for the introduction and supporting of the Communal Conservancy Program in Namibia on basis of the Conservation Amendment Act of 1996, which allows rural communities to facilitate the sustainable use of wildlife on communal land (read more details at Namibian Conservation Wins Markhor Award for its Communal Conservancy Program).
As self-governing entities, the Namibian Communal Conservancies enjoy the same rights over wildlife and tourism that private farms do; as collectives they earn money on conservancy lands from hunting tourism and game sales as well as from joint ventures with lodge operators. The actual program started in 1998 with 4 areas and had increased 79 conservancies in 2012, covering about 19% of the country. As a consequence wildlife numbers increased dramatically; for example, in the Kunene region, Hartmann’s mountain zebra numbers have grown from approximately 1,000 in 1982 to about 27,000 today. During the same period of time, estimates show that the population of desert-adapted elephants more than quadrupled, from around 150 individuals in to 750 today.
At the 12th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CBD (CBD CoP 12) in October 2014 in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, the World Conservation Community represented by the CBD delegates honored the Tajikistan Mountain Ungulates Project and the Republic of Tajikistan with the 2014 Markhor Award for promoting community-based conservancies, in particular those involved in the conservation of the Bukharan markhor (Capra falconeri heptneri). The populations of this markhor phenotype in southwestern Tajikistan (extending from the Kushvariston Range along the eastern slope of the Hazratishoh Range and the eastern slope of the southwestern edge of the Darvaz Range towards Zighar village) have steadily increased over the past decade. More than a decade ago local hunters and concerned individuals in Tajikistan started recognizing the need to conserve the mountain ungulates of their communal areas and in 2008 the first association to manage hunting on communal land was established. During the last five years the markhor populations showed a dramatic increase in numbers and therefore, towards the end of 2013, the Tajik Government issued six markhor hunting permits for the 2013/2014 hunting season. The permits were allotted to the Tajikistan Mountain Ungulate Project, a joint initiative of 6 community based conservancies. With the help of CIC Caprinae Atlas author Gerhard Damm and Stefan Michel, a German researcher and member of the IUCN Caprinae Specialist Group, two South African hunters secured the first two permits and successfully hunted and harvested outstanding trophy markhor in February 2014 in the M-Sayud concession. According to the new hunting law promulgated in 2014, 40% of the permit fees is to be allocated to local communities (in addition communities earn revenue through the hunting fees).
The Markhor Award 2014 was presented to three community representatives Munavvar Alidodov, leader of NGO Yoquti Darshay (Darshaydara Conservancy), Saidali Nabievich Nazarov (Muhofiz Conservancy) and Ayubkhan Davlatishonovich Mulloyorov (Concession M-Sayud). The main international partners of the Tajik conservation initiative are the GIZ Regional Program Sustainable Use of Nature Resources in Central Asia (Germany), Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations ZGAP (Germany), Panthera (USA) and the Tajik NGO Nature Protection Team. The award was handed over by H.E. Uahekua Herunga, Minister of the Environment and Tourism of Namibia, together with Tamás Marghescu, Director General of the CIC. Madibron Saidov, Head of Specially Protected Nature Conservation Areas Authority of Tajikistan requested the international community to support the Tajik efforts.
Tanya Rosen-Michel, Tajikistan Snow Leopard Program Director of Panthera welcomed the reward in an email to the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Chair Dr. Rosie Cooney, considering it a just recognition of the hard work in empowering the Tajik community-based conservancies.
Tanya Rosen-Michel, Stefan Michel and Munavvar Alidodov expressed gratitude to Chris Weaver of WWF Namibia. Chris Weaver had spent 3 weeks in Tajikistan in 2013 and his experience with working with supporting the development of community-based conservancies in Namibia was seen as great inspiration to the Tajik conservancies and to members of the support team. Weaver’s advice has since guided much of the work in Tajikistan.
Over the six years of its existence and through the four laureates from Africa and Asia, the Markhor Award has proved again and again that the intention of this CIC endowment, namely the recognition of environmental and conservation leaders, who are solving challenges in the field of conservation of biodiversity by creating partnerships and by using sustainable, innovative practices, including hunting, has led to partnerships of excellence across the continents.
Additional information on markhor conservation in Tajikistan can be found here:
The Hunting Report
Tajikistan Issues Limited Markhor Hunting Permits to Conservancies
Fauna & Flora International
Population status of Heptner’s markhor Capra falconeri heptneri in Tajikistan: challenges for conservation
CIC & Rowland Ward
CIC Caprinae Atlas of the World ISBN 978-0-9921870-5-7 hardcover, linen with gold foiling on front and spine, dust jackets with Bodo Meier’s watercolor paintings of Pamir argali and Kashmir markhor, Volume 1 520 pages, Volume 2 587 pages – contact firstname.lastname@example.org
1The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) is the strongest voice for hunter-conservationists on the global arena of wildlife conservation. The CIC membership includes 34 state members represented through the relevant ministries/departments as well as corporate, institutional and association members. The CIC advocates sustained wildlife conservation and habitat preservation through shared incentive-driven use, based on science and adaptive management processes and rooted in uncounted millennia of hunting heritage to ensure that each generation bequeaths to its successor lands richer in wildlife, that the cultural heritage of hunting, is preserved and the ethical principles of hunting and sustainable use of natural resources are upheld and evolving.
2The Markhor Award derives its name from the successful community-based conservation efforts for the markhor wild goat (Capra falconeri ssp) in Pakistan (Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad-Kashmir and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces). The effective conservation efforts by the local communities, supported by the Government authorities and WWF-Pakistan and IUCN-Pakistan lead to the authorization of eventually 12 annual markhor hunting permits for Pakistan through CITES.
Markhor exist in small and scattered populations of five phenotypes from southeastern Uzbekistan, southwestern Tajikistan and eastern Afghanistan; through northern Pakistan into northwestern India and all markhor phenotypes are listed on CITES Appendix 1.
Authors: Jan Mohr and Gerhard Damm