A Texas trophy hunter sparked outrage in Pakistan after he was photographed with a dead Astore Markhor, the country’s official animal. However, as more details emerged about the hunt, it appears the anger was misplaced.
Bryan Kinsel Harlan, an entrepreneur from Dallas, Texas, paid a record US$110,000 to shoot the animal in Pakistan’s northern Himalayan region of Gilgit-Baltistan. A photograph of Harlan sitting proudly with his kill, showing the majestic markhor with its symmetrical spiralling horns (which can grow to a length of 1.5m in some cases) angered many.
US citizen #BryanHarlan who hunted an AstoreMarkhor few days ago at GB has said that Pakistan is more peaceful country than Mexico. if govt of Pak govt could put some investment in to tourism sector they could do great for this beautiful country.— Tanveer Ahmed (@Mountain_Man007) February 7, 2019
Thank you #BryanKinselHarlan pic.twitter.com/91rd3rjghZ
“It was an easy and close shot. I am pleased to take this trophy,” Harlan said after, as cited by the Washington Post.
An American hunter Bryan Kinsel Harlan successfully hunted 41 inches flared-horned markhor in Sassi-Harmosh Community Conservation Area of Gilgit Baltistan ?? by paying US$110,000 as permit fee. pic.twitter.com/pkr52L2uPl— aazizwahidi (@aazizwahidi) February 5, 2019
“I’m from America, there are not many people from the United States of America that would come over here as a tourist. They think it’s dangerous. The problem is what the media is portraying. It’s not dangerous. Mexico is more dangerous than Pakistan,” Harlan added speaking at an impromptu press conference following the successful hunt.
#American trophy hunter #Bryan_Kinsel_Harlan says Pakistan is a safe place for international tourists. He says media is negatively portraying Pakistan. “#Mexico is more dangerous than Pakistan,” Harlan comments.l #GilgitBaltistan #Pakistan pic.twitter.com/xSStRtldOL— Gilgit-Baltistan ?? (@loving_gb) February 8, 2019
Many outraged social media commentators wondered why there was no official ban on hunting the animal but that is where the counterintuitive nature of conservation comes into play.
Markhor populations across the Himalayan ranges of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan have been dwindling as a result of deforestation from logging, military exercises, competition with regional livestock for food as well as domestic poaching. By 2011, there were only an estimated 2500 markhors left.
To stop the precipitous population decline, Pakistan banned all local hunting, but continues to allow foreigners to hunt no more than 12 male goats per season in “community conservation areas.” India has also created five sanctuaries for markhors.
“What has happened in this Astore markhor hunt is a prime example of what happens when a hunter and a village come together with a common understanding of conservation,” Harlan added.
“And as that happens, it reduces the poaching and – something that is often overlooked – the amount of wages that are brought to that hunt, the amount of food, and the amount of foreign investment,” he added.
The initiative is meant to help local communities as the funds are distributed among the area’s impoverished and isolated residents, who receive 80 percent of the fee, while government wildlife agencies receive the remainder.
The practice has reportedly already helped save the species from extinction: In 2015, IUCN moved it back up to “near threatened” (less than 10,000 mature individuals) from “endangered species” thanks in part to such conservation measures.
Last month, two other Americans paid $100,000 and $105,000 respectively for the pleasure of hunting the animal.
A couple of years ago an American hunter paid lots of dollars to hunt a markhor - this month again 2 hunters (one American & another Swiss) have arrived in Chitral to hunt this beautiful animal - what a complete shame that we facilitate this slaughter— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) January 12, 2019
(Pic is from previous kill) pic.twitter.com/QCmb2rNgew
“This is not just about hunting,” he told the outlet. “The number of animals is increasing, and these foreign hunters are millionaires who go back and tell the world that Pakistan is safe,” Tabarak Ullah, the local who guided Harlan during the hunt told the Washington Post.