Tibetan wild yak, Drong. (Photo/arkive.org)
DHARAMSHALA, January 17: A recent survey by American and Chinese conservationists have found that the Tibetan wild yak (Tib: Drong), the third largest land mammal in Asia, could be making a comeback following a sharp decline in numbers in the mid 20th century due to overhunting.
The Wildlife Conservation Society in a release Wednesday said it counted nearly 1,000 wild yaks in the Kekexili Nature Preserve on the remote Tibetan plateau. The now endangered species, fifty years ago, roamed the entire Tibetan plateau, managing to sustain themselves on the stunted grass roots at elevations up to 17,500 feet.
“Wild yaks are icons for the remote, untamed, high-elevation roof of the world,” said Joel Berger who led the expedition for WCS and the University of Montana. “While polar bears represent a sad disclaimer for a warming Arctic, the recent count of almost 1000 wild yaks offers hope for the persistence of free-roaming large animals at the virtual limits of high-altitude wildlife.”
Historically, the main natural predator of the wild yak, which can measure up to 2m (6ft 6in) at the shoulder and weigh up to 1000kg (2200lb), has been the Tibetan wolf. But, following China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet in the mid 20th century, the population of wild yaks has seen a dramatic decrease due to commercial hunting for its meat.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, wild yaks are listed as "vulnerable" which is one step above "endangered."
Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama in a message on environment and the natural
world notes that present-day Tibet is a prime example “of our failure to exercise discipline in the way we relate to our environment.”
“It is no exaggeration to say that the Tibet I grew up in was a wildlife paradise. Every traveller who visited Tibet before the middle of the twentieth century remarked on this,” the Dalai Lama writes.
“Animals were rarely hunted, except in the remotest areas where crops could not be grown. Indeed, it was customary for government officials annually to issue a proclamation protecting wildlife: Nobody, it read, however humble or noble, shall harm or do violence to the creatures of the waters or the wild.”