NEW YORK, July 3 (UPI) -- Conservationists say the markhor, a wild goat species known for their corkscrew horns, are making a comeback in Pakistan.
The Wildlife Conservation Society said community surveys show markhor populations in northern Pakistan's Kargah region in Gilgit-Baltistan have increased from a low of approximately 40-50 individuals in 1991 to roughly 300 this year.
The surveys suggest the total markhor population where WCS works in Gilgit-Baltistan may now be as high as 1,500 animals, a dramatic increase since the last government estimate of less than 1,000 in 1999.
The markhor, which is Pakistan's national mammal, has corkscrew horns that can reach nearly 5 feet in length. They are an important prey species for large carnivores such as wolves and snow leopards.
Markhor have been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN since 1994, with a 2008 global population estimate of less than 2,500 animals across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and India.
They are threatened by illegal hunting, habitat destruction and competition from domestic goats and sheep, WCS said.