The yak lives both in the wild and also as a domesticated cattle in the Tibetan plateau of the Himalayas. Domesticated ones are smaller in size (may weigh up to 500 kg) and of brownish, reddish, or creamy white color, as a result of crossbreeding with cattle. Wild ones are larger (may weigh up to 1 metric ton) and of black, or dark brown color. The yak utters a low, guttural sound, hence it is called the grunting cow, or grunting ox. Its wool, horns, skin, meat, milk, and power, are essential for the subsistence of the Tibetan people.
A huge and imposing hulk of an animal, the wild yak has stocky, high and humped shoulders and a broad, drooping head. Both males and females have horns, which grow out of the sides of the head and curve upwards halfway along their length. The horns of females are shorter than those of the males, reaching just 51 centimetres, compared to 95 centimetres in males; females are also just one third of the body size of males . For protection against the extreme cold of Tibet, the wild yak has a dense undercoat of soft, closely-matted fur, covered by dark brown, long and shaggy hair that almost reaches the ground. The legs are relatively short and have broad hooves that are slightly splayed to aid walking through thick snow.
The wild yak was once numerous and widespread on the entire Tibetan plateau to the north of the Himalayas, but it is now found only in remote areas of this region, where there is little human disturbance. A few wild yaks have been seen in the Chang Chemmo Valley of Ladakh in eastern Kashmir, India. The wild yak is thought to number 10,000 to 15,000, and is distinct from the smaller domestic yak, whose population numbers 12,000,000.
|Tibetan antelope or Chiru (Pantholops hodgsonii) – the sole species in the genus Pantholops, is a medium-sized bovid which is about 80cm (2 foot 7 inches) in height at the shouder. It is native to the Tibetan plateau including China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai province, and Xinjiang province; India near Ladakh, formerly western Nepal. The Tibetan antelope is also known commonly by its Tibetan name Chiru. The coat is grey to reddish-brown, with a white underside. The males have long, curved-back horns which measure about 50 cm (20 inches) in length. There are less than 75,000 individuals left in the wild, down from a million 50 years ago.
Tibetan antelope are gregarious, sometimes congregating in herds hundreds strong. The females migrate up to 300 km yearly to calving grounds in the summer where they usually give birth to a single calf, and rejoin the males at the wintering grounds in late autumn (Schaller 1998). Chirus live on the high mountain steppes and semi-desert areas of the Tibetan plateau such as Kekexili, where they feed on various forb and grass species. The average life span is about eight years.
Status: listed as the country's first-level protected wildlife.
Nature reserves: To better protect the chiru and other endangered animals on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Chinese government has set up three state-level nature reserves on the plateau - Altun Mountain (1983), Changtang (1992), and Hoh Xil nature reserves (provincial-level in1995 and upgraded to state-level in 1997).
Now quite a few people appeal that the chiru, the spirit of the plateau, should be the mascot of the 29th Olympic Games, who list the reasons as follows.
1. The habitat of chiru is the cradle of the Chinese.
2. Chiru possesses the Olympic spirits of “higher, swifter, stronger”.
3. Chiru is the symbol of green ecological animal.
4. It accords with the idea of “People’s Olympics” if chiru is decided as the mascot of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
5. The 29th Beijing Olympic Games is an excellent chance for both China and the world: for China can go a step further into the world and the world to understand China better.