[Federal Register: September 23, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 184)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 51499-51500]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-day Finding on 
Petition to Reclassify the Straight-horned Markhor Population of the 
Torghar Region of Balochistan, Pakistan from Endangered to Threatened 
and Initiation of Status Review for Markhor

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
90-day finding that a petition to change the classification of the 
straight-horned markhor population of the Torghar Hills region of 
Balochistan Province, Pakistan from endangered to threatened has 
presented substantial information indicating that the action may be 
warranted. We also find that there is substantial information 
indicating that other subspecies of markhor may warrant listing as 
threatened or endangered under the Act. A status review of the entire 
species Capra falconeri is initiated.

DATES: This finding was made on September 16, 1999. Comments and 
information may be submitted until January 21, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments, information, and questions to the Chief, 
Office of Scientific Authority; Mail Stop: Room 750, Arlington Square; 
US Fish and Wildlife Service; Washington, DC 20240 (Fax number: 703-
358-2276; E-mail address: r9osa@fws.gov). Address express and 
messenger-delivered mail to the Office of Scientific Authority; Room 
750, 4401 North Fairfax Drive; Arlington, Virginia 22203. You may 
inspect the petition finding, supporting data, and comments, by 
appointment, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the 
Arlington, Virginia address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Susan S. Lieberman, Chief, Office 
of Scientific Authority, at the above address (Telephone number: 703-
358-1708; E-mail address: susan__lieberman@fws.gov).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973 as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires us to make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial information indicating that the requested action may be 
warranted. To the maximum extent practicable, we make this finding 
within 90 days following receipt of the petition, and we promptly 
publish a Notice in the Federal Register. If the finding is positive, 
section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act also requires us to commence a status 
review of the species. We now announce a 90-day finding on a recently 
received petition.
    On March 4, 1999, we received a petition from Sardar Naseer A. 
Tareen (Head, Society for Torghar Environmental Protection, 94-Regal 
Plaza, 3rd Floor, Circular Road, Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan), on 
behalf of the Society for Torghar Environmental Protection and the IUCN 
Central Asia Sustainable Use Specialist Group, requesting that the 
Suleiman markhor (Capra falconeri jerdoni or C. f. megaceros) 
population of the Torghar Hills region of Balochistan Province, 
Pakistan be reclassified from endangered to threatened. Under the Act, 
the Suleiman markhor of Torghar is listed as C. f. jerdoni, straight-
horned markhor.
    The markhor is a species of wild goat that occurs in small, 
isolated populations in rugged, arid mountain habitats in Afghanistan, 
India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Markhor 
populations have generally declined as a result of hunting, habitat 
modification (including logging and overgrazing), and competition with 
domestic livestock.
    In 1975, when markhor were first listed under the Act, seven 
subspecies were generally recognized: C. f. jerdoni (Suleiman or 
straight-horned markhor), C. f. megaceros (Kabul or Kabal markhor), C. 
f. cashmirensis (Pir Panjal or Kashmir markhor), C. f. falconeri (Astor 
markhor), C. f. ognevi (Uzbek markhor), C. f. heptneri (Tajik markhor), 
and C. f. chialtanensis (Chiltan markhor). C. f. jerdoni, C. f. 
megaceros, and C. f. chialtanensis were classified as Endangered 
throughout their respective ranges in the Federal Register of September 
26, 1975 (40 FR 44329). At present, many authorities recognize only 
three subspecies of markhor (Shackleton 1997). C. f. jerdoni and C. f. 
megaceros are now generally considered to be the single subspecies C. 
f. megaceros (straight-horned

[[Page 51500]]

markhor). C. f. cashmirensis and C. f. falconeri are now generally 
considered to be the single subspecies C. f. falconeri (flare-horned 
markhor). C. f. ognevi and C. f. heptneri are now generally considered 
to be the single subspecies C. f. heptneri (Heptner's markhor). In 
addition, C. f. chiltanensis is now considered by many authorities to 
be Capra aegagrus chialtanensis (Chiltan wild goat). This is the 
nomenclature that we will use in this and subsequent documents related 
to review of the markhor for listing under the Act.
    The range of straight-horned markhor formerly included the major 
mountain ranges in northeastern Balochistan Province, southern North 
West Frontier Province, and, possibly, southwestern Punjab Province in 
Pakistan, and small areas in northeastern Afghanistan. The present 
range of straight-horned markhor is much reduced, owing to the 
extirpation of some local populations by indiscriminate hunting, 
habitat degradation, and competition with domestic livestock. The known 
distribution of populations within the present range is restricted to 
small, isolated areas in Balochistan Province, a small area in North 
West Frontier Province, and one unconfirmed occurrence in Punjab 
Province. The present range within Afghanistan is unknown but is likely 
to be extremely limited.
    Although comprehensive population data are lacking, recent 
estimates suggest that 1,500-2,500 straight-horned markhor may survive 
throughout the subspecies' entire range. Most areas that have been 
surveyed on more than one occasion have experienced downward trends in 
straight-horned markhor population. The one exception is the Torghar 
Hills. Results of field surveys conducted in 1985, 1994 and 1997 
indicate that the Torghar Hills population of straight-horned markhor 
has increased substantially since the mid-1980s when fewer than 100 
animals were thought to be present. In 1994 the markhor population was 
estimated to be approximately 700 animals (Johnson 1997), and in 1997 
the population was estimated to be approximately 1,300 animals (Frisina 
et al. 1998). This population increase has been due to a virtual 
elimination of unauthorized hunting that has been accomplished through 
a private conservation initiative, the Torghar Conservation Project 
(the Project), which was started in 1985.
    The Project is administered by a local non-governmental 
organization, the Society for Torghar Environmental Protection (the 
petitioner). Because the Torghar Hills are within the Pathan tribal 
belt of northern Balochistan Province, the Project employs local Pathan 
tribesmen as game guards to protect straight-horned markhor and Afghan 
urial (Ovis vignei cycloceros) from unauthorized hunting in the Project 
Area (an area of approximately 1,500 square kilometers (sq. km.)). Many 
of the game guards are former hunters who stopped killing markhor and 
urial at the behest of the local Pathan tribal chieftain. The markhor 
population has responded to this protection by increasing substantially 
in numbers since the mid-1980s. The Project has been largely self-
sufficient since its inception, depending primarily on revenues derived 
from trophy hunting fees from international hunters. The Project is 
recognized as a valid conservation program for markhor and urial by 
both provincial and Federal authorities in Pakistan, as evidenced by 
the granting of two Appendix I export permits to the Project, pursuant 
to Resolution Conf. 10.15 of the Convention on International Trade in 
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Resolution Conf. 10.15 
approved an export quota of six hunting trophies of markhor from 
Pakistan per calendar year).
    We find that the petition presents substantial information 
indicating that the requested action may be warranted. This finding is 
based on the overall size and documented growth of the Torghar Hills 
population of straight-horned markhor over the past 14 years, the 
management program called the Torghar Conservation Project, whose game 
guards have virtually eliminated unauthorized hunting within the 1,500 
sq. km. Project area, and the relative security of markhor habitat in 
the Torghar Hills. In addition, the discreteness and significance of 
the Torghar Hills population of straight-horned markhor indicate that 
it qualifies as a distinct vertebrate population segment under our 
February 7, 1996 policy (61 FR 4722).
    As a result of the review of available literature related to this 
petition, we also find that there is substantial information to 
indicate that other subspecies of markhor may warrant listing as 
threatened or endangered. The flare-horned markhor (C. f. falconeri) is 
not currently listed under the Act. This subspecies occurs in North 
West Frontier Province and the Northern Areas in Pakistan, in 
southwestern Jammu and Kashmir, and in Nuristan and Laghman in 
northeastern Afghanistan. Current population estimates are less than 
2,500 to 3,000 in Pakistan (Hess et al. 1997), and an estimated 200 to 
300 animals in India (Fox and Johnsingh 1997). No recent population 
figures are available for Afghanistan, but it is likely that few 
markhor remain in that country (Habibi 1997). Flare-horned markhor 
populations have declined as a result of indiscriminate hunting, 
habitat degradation and loss, and direct competition with domestic 
livestock (Fox and Johnsingh 1997, Hess et al. 1997).
    Heptner's markhor (C. f. heptneri) is not currently listed under 
the Act. This subspecies is restricted to three populations: one 
straddling the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, a second 
occurring along the southern border of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and a 
third in southeastern Tajikistan with a possible extension into 
Afghanistan. The current estimated total population of Heptner's 
markhor is about 700 animals (Weinberg et al. 1997). Populations of 
Heptner's markhor have declined as a result of indiscriminate hunting, 
habitat degradation and loss, and direct competition with domestic 
livestock (Weinberg et al. 1997).
    Pursuant to section 4(b)(3)(A), we hereby commence a review of the 
status of the entire species Capra falconeri. We encourage the 
submission of appropriate data, opinions, and publications regarding 
the subject petition or other populations or subspecies of Capra 
falconeri. In accordance with section 4(b)(3), within 12 months of 
receipt of the petition, we will make another finding as to whether the 
requested action is warranted, not warranted, or warranted but 
precluded by other listing measures.

References Cited

    You may request a complete list of references cited in this Notice 
from the Office of Scientific Authority (see ADDRESSES section).

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544.

    Dated: September 16, 1999.
Marshall P. Jones,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-24760 Filed 9-22-99; 8:45 am]