Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tibetan Antelope

Pantholops hodgsonii
Meet the Tibetan Antelope, or Chiru, a endangered ungulate that has been on a free-falling population decline over the past century.

Around 1900, it was estimated that there were over a million of the Antelope roaming about the Tibetan Plateau. Today, estimates are around 75,000 and falling. What has caused this species to decline in such a way? In short, habitat loss, competition from livestock, and shahtoosh.

Shahtoosh is the fine, soft wool that is unique to the Tibetan Antelope (it can be identified by the courser guard hairs in the fiber). Though the Antelope does don't need to die for the wool to be taken, poachers kill them anyway. Even though the animals are protected, the poaching continues and the population declines year after year.

The Tibetan Antelope is a shy animal, and it is (rightfully) wary of humans and other potential predators. They live in herds and are constantly on alert for danger, even digging shallow depressions in the ground when resting so that they are difficult to see. During the mating season males form harems with up to 20 females. They will defend the females, getting into fights with other males that can sometimes be fatal (due to their sharp horns that can grow 2ft long).

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Tibetan Plateau
Size : Shoulder height up to 32in (1.8m), Weight around 80lbs (36kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Bovidae -- Genus : Pantholops -- Species : P. hodgsonii

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