We currently have a small herd of Turkmenian markhor.
They can be seen in two places in the walkround area, on the way to Wolf Wood (the males) or on the path up to the polar bear viewing platform (the females & young).
There are estimated to be less than 2,500 markhor remaining in the wild. As well as being poached for the traditional medicine trade, they are also threatened by habitat loss and competition for food with domestic livestock.
The markhor is legally protected throughout much of its range and occurs within several protected areas. One of the most successful conservation initiatives for the markhor has been a trophy hunting program in Pakistan. Local communities are encouraged to conserve the markhor through economic incentives, where a large percentage of the money generated by a small number of legal trophy hunts go towards the community. Due to the success of this program, proposals have been made for the implementation of similar trophy hunting conservation schemes in other parts of their range.
The markhor are native to the mountains of the Hindu Kush and are one of the most striking goat species because of their long spiral horns. In adult males, these can reach up to 1.6m long and in females up to 25cm.
The colour and length of their coat varies with the seasons, with the short reddish-grey summer coat becoming longer and greyer over the cold winter months. In addition to the prominent horns, the male has a black beard. A number of subspecies have been proposed, however only three are consistently recognised: Capra falconeri falconeri, C. f. heptneri, and C. f. megaceros.
The name "markhor" probably came from the Pushto words "mar" and "akhur", translated as "snake-horn" and it is their horns which have resulted in them becoming endangered as the horns are prized by both trophy hunters and the traditional medicine trade.
Like many other wild goats, they are skilled climbers, and will often be seen perched on rock faces, away from the threat of predators, such as snow leopards, wolves and lynxes. They are mainly active during the day and graze on grass, shrubby leave and twigs.
The females and young live in small herds, while the males normally live alone. However, in September, during the rut, the males join the herd, and compete against each other for the right to mate with the mature females. Mating occurs in the autumn with the young being born from April to mid-June following a gestation period of 135 to 170 days. The one or two young remain with the mother until the following breeding season, and reach sexual maturity at around 30 months.