WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that efforts to bring back a subspecies of Pakistan’s national animal, the markhor, have been so successful the species should be downlisted from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The straight-horned markhor has become a popular trophy animal for western hunters who have been paying large fees to tribal chieftains in Pakistan for a chance to kill one of the endangered goats.
As a result, the chiefs curbed poaching of the species and the numbers have rebounded to nearly 3,000 animals after being hunted to just 56 known animals in 1986, according to the United Nations.
The petition to downlist the markhor was filed by conservation and hunters’ rights groups funded in part by hunters who, because of the species’ endangered status, could not import the trophies of goats they had killed into the United States.
Those groups, led by Conservation Force, sued the agency, arguing that it had failed to conduct a timely five-year status review of the species and that by not allowing the importation of trophy carcasses the agency was violating its duty to protect the species.
Conservation force said that hunters would be less likely to pay for the privilege of killing markhors if they could not bring the trophy home and that the loss of the fees would hurt the conservation plan.
The USFWS says that hunting programs in the Torghar region of Pakistan had helped local communities to reduce their dependency on livestock grazing which leads to soil depletion and erosion.
The public has until Oct. 9 to comment on the USFWS plan to downlist the markhor.