ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — The photograph, published last week in Pakistani newspapers, was stunning. It showed a magnificent mountain goat, with huge, symmetrically spiral horns, nestled on a rock and surrounded by breathtaking snowy mountains, with a man kneeling and smiling behind him.
It took a few seconds to realize that the animal, a wild Astore markhor, was dead. The caption described the man as an American hunter who had paid a record $110,000 to shoot it on a tourist expedition to Pakistan’s northern Himalayan region of Gilgit-Baltistan.
“It was an easy and close shot. I am pleased to take this trophy,” the hunter, identified as Bryan Kinsel Harlan, was quoted as saying. His home state or city was not identified, but his Pakistani guides said he is from Texas.
The story drew immediate expressions of sorrow and indignation on social media here. Some Pakistani commentators asked why there was no legal ban on hunting the markhor (Capra falconeri), which is the official national animal. Others suggested that foreign tourists be taken to photograph the exotic goats, not shoot them.
But there is another, more benign, rationale behind allowing Harlan, along with two other Americans, to pay enormous sums to kill three long-horned markhors in northern Pakistan in the past month. According to Pakistani officials and conservation groups, the practice has actually helped save a rare and endangered species from potential extinction.
The population of markhors has been dwindling, the result of local poaching for meat, deforestation and logging, military activities, competition with livestock and domestic trophy hunting.