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WHAT IS THE YAK?


The yak weighs up to 2200 lb pounds and its habitat is the treeless uplands, including plains, hills, and mountains of the Tibetan plateau and adjacent highlands, including Gansu Province, China. It stays in high areas with permanent snow during the warmer months of August and September, and spends the rest of the year at lower elevations. The wild yak grazes on grasses, herbs and lichens.



Ordinarily it gathers in groups of 10 - 30 or more, but it may occasionally be observed in large groups of 100 - 200. The wild yak was once numerous and widespread on the entire Tibetan plateau north of the Himalayas. Wild yak distribution is highly clumped, with most animals in widely scattered herds, concentrated in the areas with little disturbance by humans. Uncontrolled hunting by natives and military personnel is the main reason for the wild yak's decline. It's range has been reduced by more than half during this century. Poaching remains the main current threat.














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The yak was domesticated during the first millennium B.C. Yaks found in zoos are usually of the domesticated variety, which is smaller than the wild yak. There are now more than 12 million domestic yaks in the highlands of Central Asia. The wild form of yak is on the endangered species list. The wild yak is supremely well adapted to the harsh highlands with its thick coat, great lung capacity, and ability to clamber nimbly over rough terrain. Even its blood cells are designed for high elevations - they are about half the size of those of cattle and are at least three times more numerous, thus increasing its blood’s capacity to carry oxygen. In winter the yak survives temperatures as low as - 40 degrees cel. Wild yak herds travel on snow in single file, carefully stepping on footprints left by the lead yak.

 

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