The Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York welcomed a baby Markhor on July 20. Born to parents Edith and Sunny, the 5.8 pound female kid is the first Markhor born at the zoo in nine years.
“The Rosamond Gifford Zoo has long been committed to international Markhor conservation efforts,” said Ted Fox, zoo director. “We’ve been working on expanding our herd over the past year, and the addition of some younger animals is allowing us to make valuable contributions to the North American population.”
The Markhor is the largest member of the goat family, standing up to 45 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 250 pounds. There are several differences between the males and females of the species, with males having longer hair on the chin, throat, chest and shanks, and longer horns, which are up to five feet in length.
The Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. Its name comes from the ancient Persian words “mar” and “khor,” which translate into “the snake eater.” Although male Markhors have been known to occasionally stomp on snakes and kill them, they don’t actually consume the snake afterwards. Markhors are herbivores – the males are just protecting their harems (groups of females) from danger.
Photo Credits: Amelia Beamish
There are three subspecies of Markhor. The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is home to Capra falconeri heptneri, which can be found in the wild in two or three scattered populations in a greatly reduced distribution. They are limited to Tajikistan, the Kugitangtau range in Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. It is thought that this subspecies may possibly exist in the Darwaz peninsula of northern Afghanistan near the border with Tajikistan.
Markhors are part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP)—a collaborative effort between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and zoos around the world to help ensure their survival. Since 1994, Markhors have been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with an estimated 2,500 individuals living in the wild. The herds have been reduced by extensive trophy hunting, habitat destruction and competition from domestic livestock. Recently, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced that conservation efforts are resulting in a comeback by the wild population. Markhors are rarely held in captivity in the United States; the Rosamond Gifford Zoo is one of just 12 U.S. zoos to exhibit the species.