Survival of wild yaks under increasing threat

  • Poaching concerns
- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu

Sep 1, 2015-

The survival of wild yak, thought to have gone extinct until its rediscovery last year at Limi Valley in remote Humla district, is under threat due increasing demand for its meat and its head as a trophy in China.

A group of young researchers who made an ‘unexpected’ rediscovery of wild yak in Limi last year and again visited the site this year to conduct detailed research on yak found that the two wild yaks that were spotted in August last year were not residential in nature and migrated to and fro from the Tibetan side in search of suitable habitats in Nepal.

After sighting the wild yak last year, researchers affiliated with Friends of Nature (FoN) continued their research on different aspects including habitats and challenges faced by wild yak for survival this June, said Naresh Kushi, wildlife conservation officer with FoN, a non-government organisation working on research and conservation of wildlife in the country.

“We found that wild yaks which are under tremendous threat from illegal hunting move towards Nepal in search of better habitats,” said Kushi, adding, “And during monsoon when the locals from mountain areas in Humla move towards higher altitude in search of pastures for their domestic animals, yaks migrate to the Tibetan side.” This year in August, the research team sighted only one wild yak in the same area in Humla. It had been almost five decades since anyone sighted a wild yak in Nepal, until researchers with Friends of Nature (FoN) who were visiting Humla to conduct a study on Grey Wolf and Snow Leopard sighted two wild yaks at Limi Valley in July, 2014.  Scientifically known as Bos mutus, the wild yak is third largest animal after rhinos and elephants in the region.

Wild yak population, considered to be in thousands couple of decades ago in China, India and Nepal, are now estimated at around 15,000. Main threats to its existence are illegal hunting for meat and as trophy to decorate houses. In Nepal, wild yak was already considered extinct as its existence had not been reported for almost five decades until 2014.

Now, considering the importance of wild yak and other important wildlife species in remote mountainous regions, local communities and conservation offices have urged the government to declare Limi Valley a conservation area.

“Coordination between authorities from Nepal and China to control hunting would be crucial to protect the remaining population of this rare wild yak species,” said Krishna Bahadur Ghimire, chief district officer in Humla.

Published: 01-09-2015 08:54

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