Steep decline in Yak population in India

A group of Yaks at the National Yak Research and Breeding Centre, Arunachal Pradesh. File Photo  

The population of yak, the friendly long-haired bovine found in the Himalayan region, is rapidly declining in India for a variety of reasons ranging from reproductive disorders, improper nutrition and degradation of natural grasslands.

There are about 65,000 yaks in the country now -- a steep decline from 1,32,000 in 1977. The yak population in China is 13 million.

Of the 65,000 yaks, Arunachal Pradesh alone accounted for 13,000 as per the 2003 census, scientists at the National Research Centre on Yak (NRCY) at Dirang in the state’s West Kameng district said.

In 1991, the number had touched the nadir at just 30,000 while in the next census it slightly rose to 37,000, Dr K K Baruah, director of NRCY, said.

The gradual decline of the yak -- also known as the Ship of the Mountain, Bison of Tibet and Mountain Machine -- is also attributed to poor management practices and inbreeding, he said.

“Reproductive disorders like delayed puberty, long post partum anoestrous and repeated breeding are major hindrances for increasing yak population,” Dr Baruah said.

“Along with the declining yak population, the number of yak farmers, known as brokpas, are also decreasing,” he said.

Established in 1989, NRCY, the only institution of its kind in India, is conducting exclusive research on the overall improvement and conservation of yak for higher productivity and profitability so as to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Yak-rearing community.

“There is an urgent need to take measures to promote yak farming through scientific intervention and initiatives have been taken to trace the naturally existing grasslands through satellite mapping and assess the production capacity of these pastures,” Dr Baruah said.

He said through extensive studies the NRCY has formulated a special feed for yaks which contains all vital nutrients.

The ‘Complete Feed Block’ with area-specific mineral mixture developed by the centre is specially useful for the winter when fodder is scanty.

During the last two decades, the NRCY had undertaken several research programmes to overcome the reproductive problems in yaks.

Yak semen collection and freezing and artificial insemination are now routine practices at this institute and artificial insemination has been disseminated to the field level through various extension camps.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 11:12:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/Steep-decline-in-Yak-population-in-India/article15606861.ece

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