Pakistani airline joins race to save endangered animal

Official national animal of Pakistan has been facing conservation challenges for a long time

Beijing: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in a bid to help save the “near threatened” Markhor, a mountain goat, has decided to add the picture of the animal on its fleet of aircraft.

A spokesperson for PIA, Mashood Tajwar, told China Global Television Network (CGTN) the Markhor is also a national animal of the country, and has been facing conservation challenges for a long time.

“We decided to create public awareness through our branding strategy,” Tajwar said. “The airline will work towards protecting the animal and also preserving its shrinking habitat,” he said.

Portraits of the Markhor will be prominently splashed on the aircraft, including a large image on the tail and two on the engines.

PIA would be changing its logo and livery after nearly a decade.

“The animal represents the ethos of both the airline and the people it represents across a global diaspora of patriots,” the spokesperson said.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list for threatened species, an internationally recognised tool for measuring the conservation status of species, puts Markhor in the near threatened category as their number has dwindled to below 10,000.

All the five subspecies of the animal Kashmir Markhor, Astor Markhor, Bukharan Markhor, Sulaiman Markhor, Kabul Markhor are facing a survival challenge.

A detailed study on the past and present distribution of Kashmir Markhor shows that animal’s occupancy area has declined by more than 70 per cent.

Markhors reside in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, but large-scale poaching for medicine and hunting decimated their population in the last 20 years. Pakistan is home to straight-horned and flared horned Markhors which are a favourite among wildlife aficionados.

Alarmed over the declining population of Markhors, wildlife groups started mobilising community-based sustainable practices to stop poaching and hunting. Local hunters were motivated to join the conservation efforts to contain the tradition of trophy hunting. In 1997, 10th Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna-Conference of Parties (CITES-COP 10) fixed the national export quota of six Markhors from Pakistan’s community-based hunting management areas. The annual quota was increased to twelve in 2002, in a bid to encourage community-based conservation. “We are confident that our awareness drive and possible funding to protect our national animal will inspire more businesses to take up an environmental cause,” Tajwar added.

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