Thursday, 17 January 2013

Comeback of the Tibetan Beast?

A recent research suggests that the population of Wild Yaks called "drong" in Tibetan are increasing in some parts of the Tibetan Plateau.

According to the press release issued by Wildlife Conservation Society on January 16, 2012, around 1,000 wild yaks (འབྲོང)were counted by a team of U.S. and Chinese conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Montana in a rugged northern area of the plateau known as Hoh Xil Nature Reserve, (Achen-Gangyal in Tibetan; ཨ་ཆེན་གངས་རྒྱལ).

"Wild yaks are icons for the remote,untamed, high-elevation roof of the world," researcher Joel Berger, wholed the yak-counting expedition, said in a statement. Joe Walston, WCS executive director of Asia programs stated, "For millennia, yaks have sustained human life in this part of Asia; it would be a cruel irony if their reward is extinction in the wild,"

Wild Yak of the Tibetan Plateau [Photo by Milo Burcham/]

Due to uncontrolled hunting during the second half of the 20th century, wild yaks have been listed as “endangered” between 1960’s-1994 and "vulnerable" since 1996 by the InternationalUnion for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The animals once ranged in huge numbers throughout the Tibetan plateau, Nepal, India and western China. By around 1970 it was thought to occur only in remote areas, mainly in the northern, north-western and north-eastern part of Tibet above 4000m. Now the population across their entire range may be less than 10,000 (IUCN, 2004).

The yak is the third largest beast in Asia, after the elephant and rhino and a male wild yak can weigh upto 1000kg (2200 lb) with a shoulder height reaching over 2 m (6.5 feet). Yaks live in alpine tundra, grasslands and the cold desert regions of the northern Tibetan Plateau, ranging from 4,000 to 6,100 meters in elevation, according to the IUCN.

Yaks take off running in a rugged northwestern area of the Tibetan Plateau. [Photo by Tony Lui / World Conservation Society]
Very little is known about the biology of these wild yaks, such as how often the animals breed and how many young yaks survive to adulthood. According to some study, mating usually occurs in September and most births would be expected to occur from April through June. A wild yak can live upto 25 years. A yak is built to survive tough environments. Due to the high counts of red blood cells, which is three times more than normal cows, they are able to live without any problems on the high elevation grasslands of Tibet. Their long, thick hair keeps their body insulated from winter temperatures that can get to less than -30°C. Most yaks are black, but it is not uncommon to see white or gray ones.

Domesticated Yaks (གཡག) are also called ‘nor’ meaning wealth and are the most important animals to the Tibetan people especially ‘drogpas’ (Tibetan nomads). It is believed that yaks were first domesticated in Tibet at least 3000 years ago. Due to their sturdiness and agility, they are used as pack animals to carry loads of upto 50 kg along rough and steep mountain trails.

Nomads keep yaks as their priced possession. As most of Tibet is treeless, dried yak dung is used as fuel for fires; its hair is woven into yarn and used to make tents and rope; its hide is used to make boots and boats; its meat is high in protein while its milk is high in fat and is usually made into butter, yogurt and cheese.

Videos about Tibetan Wild Yak by Discovery Channel

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