Visitors from near and far climb the highest mountain peaks in Pakistan to catch a glimpse of a Markhor. The wild mountain goat, now with a population of only 1,500, has long been on the endangered species list. The national animal of Pakistan is at home in the lonely valleys in the north of the country. Its name is meaningful: "Mar" stands for "snake" and "Khor" means "eater". Numerous legends have grown around this graceful creature. It is said to kill and devour snakes. Nevertheless: The goat with the impressive corkscrew-like winding horns eats purely vegetarian food. According to popular belief, the Markhor is under the spell of the Peri, the mountain spirits, who can deliver the animal to a hunter appointed by them.
However, if an illicit hunter kills the Markhor, the unfortunate hunter is threatened with being taken hostage by the spirits. The only way to free himself again is to appease the mountain spirits by making sacrifices. The survival of the Markhor is probably due to the local peoples, the Nuristani and the Kalash. In their world, the loss of an animal would be a calamity. Most of the proceeds of the hunt, which is now only permitted in exceptional cases and in return for very high shooting fees, go back to the Nuristani and the Kalash and provide them with a solid incentive to continue to protect the hoofed animals in the future.
Translated by Jess Smee