Yaks face extinction due to low birth rateRearing yaks is very important in Nepal’s mountainous regions where animal husbandry is one of the main sources of income.
Rearing yaks is very important in Nepal’s mountainous regions where animal husbandry is one of the main sources of income.
The shaggy haired Himalayan animal provides milk, meat and fur. What’s more, yaks carry loads and are used as a means of transport.
However, the yak, which is so important to communities in the high Himalaya, is on the verge of extinction. The reason is a rapid decline in the number of male yaks.
“Rearing male yaks can be as dangerous as rearing a tiger,” says 56-year-old Sarki Thami of Kalinchok, Dolakha, who has been rearing yaks for four years and has a plan for preventing them from becoming extinct.
“They can attack herders with their pointed horns if provoked, and are hard to control.” Also, yaks do not live in sheds like other domestic animals, and prefer to wander in forests like wild animals.
Dolakha, Thami’s home district located in central Nepal, has seen the number of yaks fall rapidly over the years. Today, the district is home to only around 200 male yaks.
The number of yaks has been declining all over the country because of their stubborn nature, according to Dr Ramchandra Sapkota, a vet at the District Livestock Services Office, Dolakha.
To increase the population of this animal, people like Thami bring male yaks from Solukhumbu district every year during the mating season. The trail drive takes around 15 days.
“These animals have to be brought from uninhabited areas. If they break free, they can cause much damage,” says Thami, who earns around Rs500,000 annually by breeding yaks and selling calves and milk products.
The yaks brought from Solukhumbu are not only used to impregnate female yaks but domestic cattle too. In Kalinchok village, for instance, yaks are left alone with cows in a barred forest area. One yak has the capability of impregnating about 300 cows.
The mating of a yak and a cow yields a hybrid calf. Hybrid yaks are preferred by many because they provide more milk and meat. This preference is making pure yaks rarer and rarer.
People in villages like Rolwaling and Lapchhe of Dolakha bring pure yaks together during the mating season. But this happens on a very small scale. “If this trend continues, pure yaks may soon be extinct,” says Thami.
Other factors contributing to their extinction are continuously shrinking grazing lands, migration of farmers from high mountains to the low lands and climate change.
“Each yak requires wild herbs, grass and about 250 kg of maize per year,” says Thami. “Yaks also need to be fed enough medicines, salt and oil for mating.”