The organisation was formed in 2012 and comprises one person from every household from the three villages. There is a smaller committee of six people nominated by the members that handle the funds generated through the trophy hunting programme. There is also an external dispute. A neighbouring village, Farmashut, also wants to become part of the markhor conservation programme, and has demanded a share of the funds collected through trophy hunting in the past. “We have come to an out-of-court- settlement and will pay them Rs1,700,000 ($10,760) for the arrears,” explained Hussain, talking to the Thirdpole, over the phone from his village.
Since 2012, some members of the SKB had begun noticing “siphoning” of some funds by some senior members of the committee. Talking on condition of anonymity, over the phone from their villages, some community elders said it could not have happened without the collusion of the wildlife department.
Taking exception to “such sweeping statements,” Mehmood Ghaznavi, the conservator with the government of GB’s Parks and Wildlife Department, said the disbursement of the 80% of the share was so clear that no government official could rob from it. “The bidding process is transparent after which the amount is deposited to the government account by the hunter. At the end of the season, depending on where the hunting happened and the amount collected in the auction, the money is divided and cheques are sent to that community.”
From hunting, to ban, to hunting and conservation
The markhor was a popular game animal during the days of the British Raj, and the practice continued after the birth of Pakistan in 1947. By the 1990s the markhor had been driven to the brink, and the government instituted a total ban on hunting. Since then, the numbers have revived, and Ghaznavi said that there are approximately 3,500 to 4,000 markhor in the country. “We are very happy with the increase in numbers especially when you compare it to 1,500-2,000 [surviving markhor] in 2001,” he said, giving credit to the conservation and protective measures taken by the villagers. The ban was then replaced by controlled trophy hunting, a programme often cited as a huge success in biodiversity conservation.