Sheep and Goats and their Relatives (Caprinae) of Pakistan
Pakistan is one of the most important
countries for Caprinae conservation. It is home to seven species with
11 subspecies of Caprinae, that occupy an array of habitats from the
hills in the southern deserts to the high alpine areas of the
Himalayas. However, most now survive in small scattered populations,
and almost all face the same threats from illegal shooting and,
indirectly, from an increasing human population with its demand for
grazing lands and fuelwood. Currently, 10 of the 11 subspecies in
Pakistan are threatened, with eight classified as Endangered.
Western Himalayan Goral (Naemorhedus goral bedfordi)
is the least known of Pakistan's Caprinae, occuring only in the outer
Himalayan foothills. There, it occurs from about 800m up to 1950m
asl, in habitats with precipitous cliffs in association with scattered
chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) and a dense cover of thorny bushes
Wild goat (Capra aegagrus) is scattered
throughout the arid and often isolated mountain ranges of southern
Baluchistan and southwestern Sind. Two forms are recognized in
Pakistan. The scimitar-horned Sind Wild goat (C.a. blythi),
know locally as Sind ibex, was given subspecies status by Hume(1875)
and distinguised from the wild goat (C. a. aegagrus) living in
Iran and Turkey. Pakistan's second wild goat is the Chiltan goat (C.a.
chialtanensis). This form has twisted horns and occurs at the
species' northern limit in the Chiltan hills southwest of Quetta. The
Chiltan wild goat was first described by Lydekker (1913) as a
subspecies of markhor (Capra falconeri chialtanensis), and
subsequently was hypothesised to be a hybrid either between markhor
and domestic goat (Burrard 1925; Dollmann and Burlace 1935) or between
markhor and wild goat (Roberts 1969; Epstein 1972; Valdez 1985).
Asiatic or Siberian ibex (Capra [ibex] sibirica) may be
relatively, the most abundant wild Caprinae in Pakistan. This is an
animal of the high alpine zone throughout the Himalaya, and its
distribution is probably limited by the high snow cover during winter.
Roberts (1969, 1977) described five subspecies of markhor (Capra
falconeri) in Pakistan, while Schaller and Khan (1975) recognised
only two. We follow the later authors, accepting Kashmir and Astor
forms as flare-horned markhor (C.f. falconeri), Kabul and
Suleiman forms as straight-horned markhor (C.f. megaceros), and
Chiltan markhor as a wild goat.
Two species with very limited ranges in Pakistan are
blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), and Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon
polii). Both are restricted to areas along the northern border with
China. Urial (Ovis orientalis) on the other hand, are the most
widespread of Pakistan's carpins, though not in terms of numbers.
Urial sheep generally live in arid habitats, scattered throughout the
country from around Skardu in the north, southwards, west of the
Jhelum river, through Baluchistan and southwestern Sind. Following
Schaller (1977), we recognize three subspecies of urial in Pakistan;
Afghan urial (O.o.cycloceros), Punjab urial (O.o.punjaniensis),
and Ladakh urial (O.o.vignei).
Classification of the subfamily
Caprinae in Pakistan:
The Caprinae are a subfamily of the family Bovidae, the horned
ungulates, that include three tribes, the Rupicaprini or
goat-antelopes, the Caprini containing sheep and goats, and the
Ovibovini with muskoxen and takin. In Pakistan only two tribes are
represented, Rupicaprini and Caprini. These are discussed below in
Rupicaprini is represented in Pakistan by one subspecies, Western
Himalayan Goral (Naemorhedus goral bedfordi).
Tribe Caprini is
represented in Pakistan by six species and 10 subspecies:
Shackelton, D.M. (ed.) and the IUCN/SSC Caprinae
Specialist Group. 1997. Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives.
Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Caprinae. IUCN,
Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. 390+ vii pp.
IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group (http://callisto.si.usherb.ca:8080/caprinae/iucnwork.htm)
Wildlife of Pakistan-All Rights Reserved.