On the verge of disappearing in its environment, the markhor, Capra falconeri heptneri, is part of an assisted reproduction programme: embryos obtained by in vitro fertilisation and implanted into surrogate goats would help to boost populations in preparation for potential reintroductions.
Mammalia, Cetartiodactyla, Bovidae
10 to 13 years
70 to 95 cm at the shoulder, 80 kg at the most
5.5 months, 1 or 2 babies
mountain forests at altitudes of 600 m to 3,600 m
branches, shoots, grasses, buds
Pakistan, Ouzbékistan, Tadjikistan
Way of life
The Markhor can be found in a number of habitats, from the rugged mountains which it moves around with ease, to the dense alpine forests where it finds the vast majority of its food. In winter, it goes down to the plains where the weather conditions aren’t as harsh, and food is more plentiful.
Females, accompanied by their offspring, form small groups, while the males are solitary. During the breeding season, rival males engage in violent clashes, hitting each other with their horns. The victor goes on to join the group and mate with the females.
In Persian, markhor means “snake-eater”, despite the fact that this large goat is actually an herbivore! However, in Tajik (Iran), the name refers to the spiral shape of its horns, which resemble the body of a snake. While the female’s horns do not exceed 25 cm, the male’s can measure up to 1.5 m. Its grey coat gets darker and thickens in winter. The male, who is larger and heavier than the female, has a black beard and long hairs under the neck and chest.
The markhor is hunted for its meat and its magnificent horns and frequent armed conflicts pose a threat to its habitat. In Pakistan, where it is the national animal, local populations are encouraged to protect it. Some legal hunting permits are granted at exorbitant prices!
Amongst the 3 subspecies, the one displayed here is the only one that can be found in an animal park. With fewer than 700 individuals in the wild, it is also the most endangered. Given the urgency of the situation, this species was prioritised by the laboratory at the Réserve Zoologique de la Haute-Touche who, through the cryoconservation and development of in vitro fertilisation techniques in conjunction with the use of surrogate mothers (domesticated goats), works to develop the captive populations with the intention of eventually boosting the numbers of the last remaining wild populations.