The wildlife department of Gilgit Baltistan has auctioned four licenses for hunting the markhor, the official national animal of Pakistan.

According to a report in Arab News, the Ministry of Climate Change agreed to the licenses, including for trophy hunting of the much in demand flare-horned Astore markhor, a large goat species native to Pakistan. Under the government’s scheme, 12 licenses for markhors are issued every year in Pakistan, four in Gilgit Baltistan.

Each license was sold for over $80,000, from which 80 percent will go to the villages where the hunt takes place for developing their infrastructure. A total of $500,000 was reportedly raised from the auction.


The report, quoting president of a wildlife conservation community in Astore, Abdul Sami, further said that the before the licensing was introduced two decades ago, both residents and influential people would just hunt the animals for fun and meat.

Sami shared that the licensing has benefited rural communities, as the money from permits becomes their development funds.

“We have built schools, hospitals, water supply systems, and maternity homes from the trophy hunting scheme in the area,” Sami said, disapproving criticism against markhor hunting.

Earlier this year in February, a photograph of American hunter Bryan Kinsel Harlan posing with an Astore markhor he killed had invited social media outrage. Harlan had reportedly paid a record $110,000 to shoot it on a tourist expedition to Pakistan’s northern Himalayan region of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Meanwhile chief conservator Zakir Hussain claimed that the markhors would have been extinct had it not been for the licensing program. The population of markhors in the Astore Valley is currently 2,500. According to the wildlife department’s data, the markhor population in the province has increased to over 6,000 from a mere 200 in the 1990s.

Trophy hunting season runs from November to April. As markhors prefer cold, they can usually be found at the height of 8,000-11,000 feet, however, during winters they descend to 5,000-6,000 feet.

Markhor hunting usually takes place at dawn or dusk. Hunting of female and young animals below the age of six is strictly forbidden. The age of the markhor is determined by its horns, the older the markhor is, the bigger its horns will be. Markhors live about 15 years on average. The hunter is accompanied by wildlife department officials who ensure that everything is done as per the law.