The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of a markhor. Parents, Edith and Sunny, welcomed the 5.8 pound female at 11:30 a.m. on July 20. It is the first markhor kid 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.
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. It is 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.
Markhor 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, markhor 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. Markhor in captivity are rare in the United States; the Rosamond Gifford Zoo is one of just 12 zoos to exhibit the species.
- 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 the markhor has been known occasionally to purposely stomp on a snake and kill it, the markhor is a confirmed herbivore, and it doesn’t actually consume the snake afterwards. He’s just protecting his harem (group of females) from danger!
- Charles Darwin postulated that modern domestic goats arose from crossbreeding markhor with wild goats.