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Chinese Indigenous Wildlife --Tibetan

Antelope

The Tibetan steppe at elevations of 3,700-5,500 meters, about 12,300-18,300 feet, is the Tibetan antelope's living environment. Tibetan antelopes coming from the family of Bovidae are mainly distributed over Qinghai Province, Tibetan Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China.

Because of their peculiar habitat and habits no zoos or other places in the world have ever tried artificial rearing. Furthermore, very little research has been done on their habits. In 1900, the population of Tibetan antelop was estimated to be around 1 million animals. There are now though to be fewer than 75,000 animals left in the wild. Local densities are around 1.5 animals per square kilometer, although over their whole range the population density is below 0.2 animals per square kilometer.

General Characteristics
Body Length: 120-130 cm / 4-4.3 ft.
Shoulder Height: 80-100 cm / 2.7-3.3 ft.
Tail Length: 18-30 cm / 7.2-12 in.
Weight: 25-35 kg / 55-77 lb.
The dense coat is very soft and woolly, and is very good insulation against the Tibetan weather.  The overall coat colour is a pink-tinted pale tan, with the underparts, including the chin, being creamy white.  The fronts of the slender legs are dark brown to black, as is the face (including the forehead, bridge of the nose, and upper cheeks).  The nostrils are bulbous, with sacs on the sides which can be inflated to the size of small eggs.  The hooves are long and narrow, and the dewclaws are small, but broad.  Males alone carry the slightly S-shaped horns which grow 50-70 cm / 20-28 inches in length.  Black in colour and ridged on their lower half, they rise nearly vertically from the head.

Ontogeny and Reproduction
Gestation Period: Around 6 months.
Young per Birth: 1 or 2
The rut takes place in early winter (November-December), and the young are born in May and June.
Sexual Maturity: Presumably at 1.5-2.5 years.
Life span: Probably 10-15 years.
Ecology and Behavior

Extremely wary by nature, the chiru is constantly on the alert and is hence difficult to approach.  Feeding occurs primarily in the morning and evening, .  When resting, the chiru excavates a shallow depression about 30 cm / 1 foot deep: this partially conceals the animal from predators, and helps to protect it from the harsh wind.  During the rut, males rarely eat and are almost constantly in motion.  Each attempts to control a harem of 10-20 females, and zealously guards them from rival males.  Fights between males break out frequently, and are extremely fierce.  One or both of the contestants may perish as the result of wounds inflicted by the sharp horns.  Local densities are around 1.5 animals per square kilometer, although over their whole range the population density is below 0.2 animals per square kilometer.
Family group: Herds with 10-15 animals, adult males solitary.
Diet: Grasses and herbs.
Main Predators: Wolf, Himalayan black bear.

Distribution
The Tibetan steppe at elevations of 3,700-5,500 meters / 12,300-18,300 feet.

Because of their peculiar habitat and habits no zoos or other places in the world have ever tried artificial rearing. Furthermore, very little research has been done on their habits. In 1900, the population of Tibetan antelop was estimated to be around 1 million animals. There are now though to be fewer than 75,000 animals left in the wild. Local densities are around 1.5 animals per square kilometer, although over their whole range the population density is below 0.2 animals per square kilometer.

Challenges
Tibetan antelopes are listed as endangered due to poaching, competition with domestic livestock herds, and fragmentation of their habitat as wild rangelands are separated by long fences. The continued international demand for shatoosh wool continues to be a threat to their survival as anti-poaching initiatives by local agencies struggle to cover this enormous landscape. Three to five chiru must be killed to make a single shatoosh shawl, long prized in high fashion circles in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. This international demand resulted in the killing of an estimated 20,000 animals annually at the height of the slaughter in the 1980s—a particularly disturbing number considering the size of the remaining herds.

Conservation of chiru is complicated by the fact that mortality among the young is high. Within the first two months of life, up to half of the calves die, and two-thirds perish before two years of age. Declining populations mean that chiru are more susceptible to the harsh winds, low rainfall, and cold temperatures of the Tibetan Plateau.

WCS Responds
In 1993, partly due to WCS efforts to publicize the plight of the chiru, China created the Chang Tang Nature Reserve, the second-largest reserve in the world at over 112,000 square miles. In 2006, WCS and other conservationists won another battle in the long fight to save the Tibetan antelope when the species became protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This listing made it illegal to sell shatoosh across state lines.

At the end of that year, WCS’s George Schaller and Aili Kang undertook an eight-week, 1,000-mile journey in Tibet’s remote northern Chang Tang region to survey the area for chiru. Their winter journey over this rugged, harsh landscape took them to altitudes between 16,000 and 17,000 feet, and represented the first-ever comprehensive survey of the species. Schaller and his colleagues, which included a team of Tibetan and Han-Chinese biologists and field assistants, counted nearly 9,000 chiru—many more than expected. The team also reported that they witnessed no direct evidence of the widespread poaching that was evident just a few years before.

WCS has worked to publicize the damaging effects of purchasing shatoosh and collaborated with the Patagonia Company to finance a guard post and training courses to reduce poaching. With WCS help, the local government established the West Kunlun Natural Reserve for chiru and other wildlife at this site.

Currently, WCS continues to work with Tibetan authorities to develop a comprehensive management plan for the region to help preserve the Tibetan antelope and its high-elevation home. .Give WCS needs your support to guard a future for Earth's most spectacular and imperiled wildlife.

Tibetan antelope are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service due to commercial poaching for their underwool, competition with local domesticated herds, and the development of their rangeland for gold mining. The Chiru's wool, known as shahtoosh, is warm, soft and fine. Although the wool can be obtained without killing the animal, poachers simply kill the chiru before taking the wool; the Chiru's numbers have dropped accordingly from nearly a million (estimated) at the turn of the 20th century to less than 75,000 today. The numbers continue to drop yearly. The struggle to stop illegal antelope hunting was portrayed in the 2004 film, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol.

In July 2006 the Chinese government inaugurated a new railway that bisects the Chiru's feeding grounds on its way to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. In an effort to avoid harm to the animal, thirty-three special animal migration passages have been built beneath the railway. However, the railway will bring many more people, including potential poachers, closer to the Chiru's breeding grounds and habitat.