Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Wild yak mothers found to be higher climbers than their male counterparts

In the world of the endangered wild yak of the Tibetan Plateau it’s the mothers that are the real climbers, say researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

They discovered mothers with young are far more likely to venture up onto steeper terrain and higher altitudes (around 15,994 feet) than either males, who prefer the valley floor, or females without young.

This they believe is to avoid predators and to access more nutritious food.

Wild yaks are the largest grazer north of the tropics; and are closely related to North American bison.

The authors of the study say that the remoteness of the wild yak’s habitat gives conservationists an opportunity to study a species that has not been largely impacted by humans.

“Neither habitat destruction nor fragmentation are issues in the yak’s home in far western China, and so there are amazing opportunities to learn about why males and females respond differently to climate change and biological challenges," said lead author Joel Berger of WCS and University of Montana.

"But, more fundamentally, just as people climb mountains in the Himalayas because they are there, here we have a throwback to the Pleistocene; it is still here, and we by uniting people from different countries have the opportunity to conserve a species, not to mention an ecosystem and a landscape that is larger than all of Montana and Nebraska combined.”

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